AVOID MUSLIM INDONESIA
- From: NUKE MECCA <mormoninfo@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 22 May 2012 16:25:18 -0700 (PDT)
No Model for Muslim Democracy
By ANDREAS HARSONO
Published: May 21, 2012
IT is fashionable these days for Western leaders to praise Indonesia
as a model Muslim democracy. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
has declared, “If you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity
and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia.” And last month
Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, lauded Indonesia for showing
that “religion and democracy need not be in conflict.”
Tell that to Asia Lumbantoruan, a Christian elder whose congregation
outside Jakarta has recently had two of its partially built churches
burned down by Islamist militants. He was stabbed by these extremists
while defending a third site from attack in September 2010.
This week in Geneva, the United Nations is reviewing Indonesia’s human
rights record. It should call on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to
crack down on extremists and protect minorities. While Indonesia has
made great strides in consolidating a stable, democratic government
after five decades of authoritarian rule, the country is by no means a
bastion of tolerance. The rights of religious and ethnic minorities
are routinely trampled. While Indonesia’s Constitution protects
freedom of religion, regulations against blasphemy and proselytizing
are routinely used to prosecute atheists, Bahais, Christians, Shiites,
Sufis and members of the Ahmadiyya faith — a Muslim sect declared to
be deviant in many Islamic countries. By 2010, Indonesia had over 150
religiously motivated regulations restricting minorities’ rights.
In 2006, Mr. Yudhoyono, in a new decree on “religious harmony,”
tightened criteria for building a house of worship. The decree is
enforced only on religious minorities — often when Islamists pressure
local officials not to authorize the construction of Christian
churches or to harass and intimidate those worshiping in “illegal”
churches, which lack official registration. More than 400 such
churches have been closed since Mr. Yudhoyono took office in 2004.
Although the government has cracked down on Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al
Qaeda affiliate that has bombed hotels, bars and embassies, it has not
intervened to stop other Islamist militants who regularly commit less
publicized crimes against religious minorities. Mr. Yudhoyono’s
government is reluctant to take them on because it rules Indonesia in
a coalition with intolerant Islamist political parties.
Mr. Yudhoyono is not simply turning a blind eye; he has actively
courted conservative Islamist elements and relies on them to maintain
his majority in Parliament, even granting them key cabinet positions.
These appointments send a message to Indonesia’s population and
embolden Islamist extremists to use violence against minorities.
In August 2011, for example, Muslim militants burned down three
Christian churches on Sumatra. No one was charged and officials have
prevented the congregations from rebuilding their churches. And on the
outskirts of Jakarta, two municipalities have refused to obey Supreme
Court orders to reopen two sealed churches; Mr. Yudhoyono claimed he
had no authority to intervene.
Christians are not the only targets. In June 2008, the Yudhoyono
administration issued a decree requiring the Ahmadiyya sect to “stop
spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the
principal teachings of Islam,” including its fundamental belief that
there was a prophet after Muhammad. The government said the decree was
necessary to prevent violence against the sect. But provincial and
local governments used the decree to write even stricter regulations.
Muslim militants, who consider the Ahmadiyya heretics, then forcibly
shut down more than 30 Ahmadiyya mosques.
In the deadliest attack, in western Java in February 2011, three
Ahmadiyya men were killed. A cameraman recorded the violence, and
versions of it were posted on YouTube. An Indonesian court eventually
prosecuted 12 militants for the crime, but handed down paltry
sentences of only four to six months. Mr. Yudhoyono has also failed to
protect ethnic minorities who have peacefully called for independence
in the country’s eastern regions of Papua and the Molucca Islands.
During demonstrations in Papua on May 1, one protester was killed and
13 were arrested. And last October, the government brutally suppressed
the Papuan People’s Congress, beating dozens and killing three people.
While protesters were jailed and charged with treason, the police
chief in charge of security that day was promoted.
Almost 100 people remain in prison for peacefully protesting. Dozens
are ill, but the government has denied them proper treatment, claiming
it lacks the money. Even the Suharto dictatorship allowed the
International Committee of the Red Cross to visit political prisoners,
yet the Yudhoyono government has banned the I.C.R.C. from working in
Instead of praising Indonesia, nations that support tolerance and free
speech should publicly demand that Indonesia respect religious
freedom, release political prisoners and lift restrictions on media
and human rights groups in Papua.
Mr. Yudhoyono needs to take charge of this situation by revoking
discriminatory regulations, demanding that his coalition partners
respect the religious freedom of all minorities in word and in deed,
and enforcing the constitutional protection of freedom of worship. He
must also make it crystal clear that Islamist hard-liners who commit
or incite violence and the police who fail to protect the victims will
be punished. Only then will Indonesia be deserving of Mr. Cameron and
Mrs. Clinton’s praise.
Andreas Harsono is a researcher for the Asia division at Human Rights
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