Intolerance in Indonesia is growing at an alarming rate with many citizens claiming to be uncomfortable living in the same neighborhood with people of different backgrounds, a survey has revealed.
“The survey finds that the people who are intolerant and tend to condone violence are generally people with low education and low income,” Ardian Sopa, a researcher with the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI), said at a press conference in Jakarta on Sunday to announce the findings.
The survey polled 1,200 respondents from all 33 provinces nationwide, using a multistage random sampling method.
Ardian said the survey showed that 67.8 percent of people with a low educational background (senior high school or lower) were uncomfortable living in the same neighborhood with people of different religious background or sexual orientation.
Of these respondents, 61.2 percent were uncomfortable living next to Shiites, 63.1 percent were uncomfortable with Ahmadis and 65.1 percent did not want to have homosexuals in their neighborhood.
“Meanwhile, 32.2 percent of respondents with higher education backgrounds [senior high school and up] feel uncomfortable living in the same neighborhood with people of different religious backgrounds or sexual orientation: 38.8 percent of them were uncomfortable with Shiites, 36.9 percent with Ahmadis and 34.9 percent with gay people,” Ardian said.
More than half of people with a low income, defined as less than Rp 2 million per month, were uncomfortable living in the same neighborhood with Shiites, 61.2 percent with Ahmadis and 59.1 percent with gays. Of those with a higher income, 42.2 percent were uncomfortable with living next to Shiites, 38.8 percent with Ahmadis, and 40.9 percent with gays.
“Intolerance against people with different social backgrounds is growing. The survey also showed that the public’s tolerance toward violence is growing,” Ardian said.
Cultural expert Jose Rizal Manua agreed with the LSI’s findings, citing growing violence against Shia and Ahmadiyah communities in particular.
He attributed the growing intolerance on poor law enforcement, including the complicity of the authorities in fostering tensions by taking bribes to side with the majority Sunnis.
“The law must be enforced [or else] it could threaten the state ideology of Unity in Diversity,” Jose warned.
However, sociologist Wardah Hafidz expressed doubt about the findings, saying there were still many regions in Indonesia with high levels of tolerance.
“It has to be clear which regions were included in the survey. Indonesia can’t be generalized like that,” she said.
She added she believed that open dialogue would strengthen tolerance among Indonesians despite the presence of intolerant groups.
“There’s been a trend of setbacks with regard to diversity, but it’s not as bad as what the survey suggested. There’s still hope,” Wardah said.
The LSI’s survey, with a margin error of 2.9 percent and conducted from Oct. 1 to 8, highlights a steady increase in intolerance over the years.
A survey of 1,000 respondents by the institute in 2010 showed that 30.2 percent approved of violence on religious grounds, up from 13.9 percent in 2005.
LSI chairman Denny J.A. said the rising intolerance against those of different religions was mostly found in respondents with lower educational backgrounds.
“Intolerance is also higher among men compared to women and higher in rural areas than in urban areas,” he said.
He also attributed the worrying decline in tolerance toward diversity to weak law enforcement, with the poll showing that only 50 percent of respondents were satisfied with the enforcement of the law under the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.