Religious minorities are still at risk in Indonesia, facing restrictions from the government as well as social hostilities including threats and intimidation by individuals and members of the community, according to a recent international survey.
Islamic studies experts met on Friday for the 2012 Annual International Conference on Islamic Studies, and the Pew Research Center’s September report, “Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion,” was a major topic of concern for conference participants.
“Indonesia along with Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Algeria, Russia, India and Singapore are still categorized as countries with high GRI and SHI,” said AICIS steering committee member Prof. Amin Abdullah, referring to the government restrictions index and social restrictions index, two measures used in the report to rank religious freedom, or the lack thereof, in countries throughout the world.
The report covers the period from 2006-10, and showed an increase in religious restrictions in 66 percent of the 197 countries covered.
And a democratic government, Amin said, doesn’t necessarily lead to tolerance and equality in terms of religious practice.
Israel and Turkey are two examples. In Israel, Amin said, GRI remains high because of government polices restricting access to religious sites. In Turkey, the Sunni majority still forces the Alawi minority to accept Sunni values in state-run schools.
“In Indonesia, we often still see, and it’s very sad to see, hatred, hostilities, intimidations, threats and violence against our fellow citizens,” he said.
AICIS issued several important recommendations for Islamic universities (PTAI) and AICIS for the future.
Amin, the former rector of the Sunan Kalijaga Islamic State University in Yogyakarta, said that universities should use a more scientifically-integrated curriculum.
“From here, PTAIs in Indonesia will be able to produce many progressive ijtihadist Muslims, or contemporary [progressive] Muslim scholars, who have sufficient knowledge about classical Islamic periods and who will try to reinterpret religious values through fresh ijtihad and through modern science, social sciences and the humanities to answer the needs of the contemporary Muslim community.”
Prof. Abd A’la, the rector of the State Institute for the Islamic Studies Sunan Ampel, said that the AICIS forum is an opportunity for Indonesian Muslim intellects to contribute to spreading moderate Islamic teachings to the world.
“Therefore the AICIS forum recommends that the works of Indonesian Muslim intellects be translated into Arabic and English so that the experiences of Indonesian Muslims can be shared and consumed by the world community,” he said.
Prof. Dede Rosyada, from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and Prof. Azyumardi Azra, head of the postgraduate school of the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, are both confident about PTAI’s future role in Indonesia.
Azyumardi said that PTAIs can become the world’s Islamic education barometer, because Indonesia has the highest number of Islamic universities in the world. Malaysia only has two Islamic universities, Egypt has six and Indonesia has more than 100.
Dede, the ministry’s head of the Directorate of Islamic Higher Education (Diktis), said that Diktis sent 522 lecturers to get postgraduate and doctoral degrees last year and 230 more this year. Diktis is also currently processing study permits for 1,114 lecturers in the country and 30 more to study overseas.