Religious Intolerance Poisoning Indonesia

By Jakarta Globe on 09:48 am May 02, 2013
Category Crime, Featured, News
Members of a hard-line Islamist group protest outside the HKBP Taman Sari church in Bekasi district in this file photo. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

Members of a hard-line Islamist group protest outside the HKBP Taman Sari church in Bekasi district in this file photo. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

For the 13th year in a row, Indonesia has been included on a watchlist of countries with appalling religious freedoms.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said that Indonesia’s tradition of pluralism had been strained in recent years by “ongoing sectarian tensions, societal violence and the arrest of individuals considered religiously deviant.”

Dwindling religious tolerance in Aceh, which has adopted its own interpretation of Shariah law, is specifically highlighted in the report, including the closure of 29 churches and five Buddhist temples in the district of Singkil and the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, during the past year.

The report also mentions last November’s attack on an allegedly heretical sect in Aceh’s Bireuen district that killed the sect leader, Tengku Ayub Syakuban, and one of his students. None of the around 100 people participating in the attack have been arrested.

The impunity enjoyed by the people behind the Bireuen attack is not unique, with hard-line groups operating freely with few consequences, harassing religious minorities, destroying places of worship and pressuring local officials to detain and restrict those accused of blasphemy and proselytizing minority faiths, the report says.

Last month, the Surabaya District Court in East Java acquitted Rois Al-Hukama of orchestrating a deadly anti-Shiite rampage in Sampang district, Madura Island, that left two people dead in 2012.

A mob of 500 Sunni Muslims rampaged through a village in Sampang’s Omben subdistrict on Aug. 26, hacking one Shiite Muslim to death and setting fire to more than 30 homes. Those who remained in the region, or refused to convert to Sunni Islam, were forced to live in spartan conditions in an unadorned sports complex. Nearly one year on, the community still lives in exile.

Although President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has publicly supported religious tolerance, members of his cabinet “sometimes send mixed messages on religious freedom,” the report states.

The US commission, appointed by the government, noted that Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali had publicly supported provincial bans on the Ahmadiyah group and suggested that religious tolerance could only be attained by converting Ahmadiyah and Shiite members to the mainstream form of Sunni Islam.

The commission recommended that the US government create programs to increase the capacity of Indonesian human rights defenders, members of the provincial Joint Forums for Religious Tolerance (FKUB), as well as judges and law enforcement officers, so that they could mediate and address sectarian conflicts and religiously charged violence.

It also urged the Indonesian government to repeal a 2008 joint ministerial decree banning the Ahmadiyah from proselytizing, a 2006 decree that regulates the building of houses of worship, and Article 156 of the Indonesian Criminal Code, which outlaws blasphemy.

An Indonesian pro-democracy organization, the Setara Institute, cited 264 instances of violence directed at religious minorities last year alone.

Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, likened the archipelago’s increasing levels of intolerance to “a form of toxic osmosis.”

“It can and will spread and become a much more serious problem,” he said in a recent report.

  • Roland

    “President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has publicly supported religious tolerance…”

    Lip service only to please the international community!

    If he would be serious about those issues plaguing Indonesia since 13 years (interesting that 9 out of those 13 years have been under SBY’s administration) he would have already cut any ties with certain cabinet members and would have excluded certain parties from his coalition – plus he would have set concrete steps to ensure religious tolerance which includes, but is not exclusive to, strict law enforcement to the perpetrators (as in the image above), he would have ensured that unbiased justice is being served, he would have set active steps that Supreme Court rulings (and additional reports by the ombudsman) are followed up, etc. – instead he’s embracing in public speeches his “brothers” from the hard-line quarters as he knows well that even they are just representing a small percentage of the public it could lead to political troubles for him personally – and as an extreme vain person he cannot let this happen.

    Where’s a will there’s a way – but this does NOT apply to the current administration and certainly not to its leader!

    • 22roles

      Maybe time is right to reinforce pancasila and everyone must play on same level of playing field..Indonesia has done more than enough to stop extremists from running the show in the country. I prefer NGO bill must be pushed through and push aside what Muhamaddiyah and others say about it

      • PukeonU

        silly child. Whilst money is the Indonesian god there is no level playing field.

        Yes Valkyrie – it makes him a liar and a traitor to the nations constitution

        • Valkyrie1604


    • Valkyrie1604

      Doesn’t that make him a hypocrite or maybe a liar?

    • MadWorld

      The core of the problem for moslim is The Sharia ,it is considered the sacred law of Islam, it is a religious code of life, It is the words of ALLAH,as revealed in the Quran, it CAN NOT be changed ,or amended by all means.
      Sharia guides ALL aspects of moslim life, from their song, economy, politics, familial, foods, clothing, even banking & lately straddling motor cycles.

    • MadWorld

      If you really interpreted the Sharia as it was written in the 7th century(?),as a Moslim you should embraced the Sharia,Hanbali or Jafri Sharia, because it can not be moderated or amended,as moslim you have actually 2 choices, IF you are a moslim then Sharia law it will be , IF not embracing the law you are not a real moslim. Have you read it? Is mind-bending.

  • Joe90

    Need to have a religious minister from a different demonination rather than suryadharma ali

    • Valkyrie1604

      Joe, Indonesia does NOT require any religious ministry. It should normally be under the umbrella of Social Affairs.

      • Dea Jessica

        Unless the Minister of Social Affairs is crazy fanatic too. There is a more severe problem rooted in how the government works. It is no secret that there are some hidden criterias in order to climb up the bureaucracy ladder: religious belief, hometown, etc. Thus, I personally believe that this solution will not work in our beloved country.

        • Valkyrie1604

          Dea, dear me, whilst I recognize your opinion, you must understand what was meant. The establishment of a Ministry for religious affairs was originally (probably) meant to oversee ALL religious activities in this country. Has this been done? There are too many ‘happenings’ going on that has NOT been attended to fairly and correctly. Need I elaborate?
          Again, this particular ministry is a farce plus what you have mentioned above.

          • Roland

            Valkyrie -Pakistan also has a Ministry for Religious Affairs however to counterbalance that Ministry they have at least also a Ministry for Minorities (which might or might not represent religious minorities). However the Pakistani government plans to abolish that ministry after their Minister was assassinated a while ago.
            Malaysia does not seem to have a “Religious Ministry at all but then again – Malaysia has about 60 percent Muslims and the rest splits to other faiths.


            I agree though that, if if there is a RELIGIOUS Affairs Ministry by name and function (and NOT an ISLAMIC one) which seems to be a for some reasons a necessity in Islam dominated countries, there should definitely be equal representations of at least all other state sanctioned religions plus also representation of not legally recognized but locally present orientations of faith. Ministers of this religious Ministry should be rotated periodically between representations of all state recognized such

            Religion DOES NOT EQUAL Islam!

          • Valkyrie1604

            Odd isn’t it? Where there’s a ministry for religious affairs, problems pop out like pimples.

            “Religion DOES NOT EQUAL Islam”……in this country it is so.

            Suryadharma does not care a twit about other faiths. Last Christmas it was the president and KAPOLRI that gave attention to this festive season. For that matter, have you seen him extending concerns on festivities of other Faiths?

            Your penultimate para …… won’t work.

            Have a nice weekend!

  • Troublemaker

    You can see clearly the guy in the photo is a crazy fool…

    • blightyboy

      Not just crazy.

  • Troublemaker

    Like a cancer… this will spread if not addressed immediately. Indonesia, for once do something rather than do nothing.

  • Highlander

    Agree – its spreading like a cancer and unless its brought under control we will start to have repercussions with minority groups -

  • EuanMie

    “…and suggested that religious tolerance could only be attained by converting Ahmadiyah and Shiite members to the mainstream form of Sunni Islam.”

    If a Religious Affairs Minister can make a statement like that and not get the joke then there’s truly no hope.

  • MikeOfAston

    Forget it, the concept of tolerance doesn’t exist in the Indonesian psyche – that’s why there’s no exact native word for it. Tolerance is at best re-worded as “toleransi”, intolerance as ” intoleransi”. See?

    • Daniel Jonathan

      Actually we have ‘tenggang rasa’, although it is only common in children’s textbooks..

    • Dirk

      As you admit, there was no word for intolerance either. You could just as easily posit that tolerance was the status quo in Indonesia until recent decades.

      • DrDEz


        Take a trip back into Indonesian history – the evidence points to a place where violence was/is rife –

        Three main reasons

        1. Ethnic clashes

        2. Religion

        3. Gangster or preman

        Once RI came into existence add to that state/military violence

        • Dirk

          Late reply, Dez, but I actually was referring to antiquity or at least premodernity. There were Muslim citizens of Majapahit.

          • DrDez

            The Majapahit era (1200 – 1500) was also a time of great tribal/ethnic conflict – one often forgets that Indonesia is far more than just Java, however with Java itself the rival royal families did their dirty work just like they do these days really
            There is a lot of good meaningful research work but I won’t bore you with the details

  • Forgetyourself

    Basically it can’t be stopped because the root of the problem is religious fundamentalists. The government is actively supporting this by ruining the education system – they’ve basically taken away English, science and even IT, and added more religion and nationalism. So you’ll have a dumb, religious, violent population.

    • Roland

      @Forgetyourself – do you think that the young man on the image above as the others behind him have the skill set and the education to find a decent job with a decent income to start a family, have kids, send them to school….? Of course they don’t!

      Apart of the fact that there are not enough jobs in existence) for unskilled workers (and actually also not for many skilled ones) and with the new nationalism looming on the horizon and a breathtaking birthrate it will also be just worse in the years to come.

      Those low educated young people are ready to be recruited by those hard-line groups who give them a sense of being needed, accepted, respected.

      You are correct.

      The rather terrible education system which still costs money which many families cannot afford or if due to the complicated and expensive bureaucracy those kids are actually not even in legal existence (as they don’t have a birth certificate and therefore no right to go to school) and therefore the government (a education of their citizen is their ultimate responsibility) is fuelling those “organizations” with fresh, easily impressed recruits (as this young man above and his peers) year for year for year with no end in sight. And it will get even worse with the new curriculum around the corner. It is actually a positive development that for this year only around 20 percent of schools can adopt it and hopefully the curriculum will be cancelled then.

  • elhazel

    And i think ministry of religion should be deleted, since they didn’t do any important actions due this religion intolerance issue.

    • Spectator

      They did something. Venting the hate under the cover of religion, while stealing people’s money. They did.

      • Valkyrie1604

        Would you like to know how much “money” is in the till from faithfuls waiting to fulfill their religious obligation for pilgrimage to Mecca? This is in reference to your remark about “stealing people’s money.”

  • Valkyrie1604

    Thank you Joe for agreeing and WE ALL know why they have one. Don’t we?

    • devine

      Correct Val… but it is just about time to rename it to “Mininstry of Islamic Affairs”… because that is what it is and as a matter of fact it is an insult to all the other religions and non-religions…

  • devine

    WebEd, this picture is insulting…can you please change it…?

    • Dirk

      Why? Because you live in Bali, sheltered from these freaks?
      200 nasi bungkus can buy you a mob of these guys.

    • Good,Bad and Ugly

      Bonobos in white skull caps.

      Oops! Should not insult the poor bonobos. They are more generous and thoughtful. Hoo hoo!

    • blightyboy

      Insulting to whom?

    • Muffinman

      Did he just recently fall from a tree ? Thus the out strectched arms and
      complimenting facial expression. At least this one shows a hint of hind
      sight. He made sure he put on his vest that morning to help cushion the

    • Valkyrie1604

      He should have raised his middle fingers instead.

  • blightyboy

    Just look at places like Mogadishu and Mali currently in the news, and there are many more across the globe that have been infected by this desease. There is pain and suffering when animals like this marched in, and tears of joy as they are driven out. Nobody wants them, they are just sadistic criminals, unable to live with normal mankind. They are the curse of the World, pure evil, the spawn of the devil. Just look at the picture – this is a rational, sane human being?

  • Spectator

    can’t help but feels sorry that the moron is able to run as a minister. He blamed it on Christians in the past, for being ‘too exclusive’ if my memory serves right, and now want to abolishe the diversity? Might as well make his own country.

  • MadWorld

    It is written according to Allah’s words in the Sharia:
    °) Non-muslim are not equal to muslim and must comply to Sharia.
    °) Islam permit devout moslim to lie, to cheat and bluff non-moslim to protect, to promote his religion of Islam, anytime, anywhere (also in Malaysia ) =Islam Taqiyya!
    °) Almost 97%of the sample of Sharia justice system can be traced back to the Quran & Sunnah.
    A 5 year old can understand this, fetch me a 5 year old child.(Groucho Marx).
    Do Malaysian need JAKIM? which is an abbreviation of Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia. I wonder what “kemajuan ” means in Malaysia?

    • Darren1

      And where exactly in the Sharia is it written?

      • DrDez

        It is not written as a set of laws – like say the 10 Commandments which is simple to understand and not open to interpretation
        it is drawn in essence from the teachings and life of the prophet which of course were written well after his death – in turn Ulema Councils interpret these words and create laws (sic) thus issuing edicts and fatwahs – you see the result daily here with the MUI
        The issue, and cause of a great deal of violence, is that interpretations are often so very different – some people do not want to take it in context or even modern values arguing that to live the true path one must do as the prophet did – The most repulsive (to many) example of this is the permissable marriage of prepubescent girls. There are of course many other divisive elements, wishing someone Merry Christmas or celebrating Valentines day, having a girlfriend and so on even wearing jeans ! The lack of core, simple rules and a governing body just add to it.
        In summary if you want to find peace in the teachings you can, if you want to find justification for violence you can – The problem is without a decent education and the ability to read Arabic to a high standard, many Muslims are at the mercy of their Iman or religious leaders interpretations.
        The NU published a super document last year illustrating the relationship between Saudi trained clerics and rising violence
        If I can find it I will post the link

      • MadWorld

        As I understand.
        The principal source of the Sharia, are the Quran, the sunnah & & the hadith. The hadith is derived of a compilations of the saying, practices & the teaching of the Prophet. Surely it was re-edited many times depending on the interpretations of scholars. The Sunnah according to some scholars predates the Quran & the hadith. In a way of speaking the Sunnah was already practiced by the yew , the christian & the arab. When Muhammad re-instituted the sunnah as integral part of Islam, like fasting in ramadan , and circumcision.
        In the book(s) hadith it really covers all aspects of your dear life,from menstruation,prayers,,sales & trades,slavery, you name it it is discussed elaborately.
        Am I right Dez? please comment.

        • DrDez

          more or less

          As I state below the biggest issue is you can interpret much of it as you please – not all by any means – but if you are that way inclined you can find a clause that says ‘kill the buddhist and take his child to slavery’or worse

        • Voxclara

          Hi MW, the Sunnah is the deeds and saying of Muhammed. Therefore the Sunnah couldn’t possibly predate Islam. Fasting, circumcision etc are Jewish traditions which were adopted by Muhammed. He also plagiarised many biblical events albeit inaccurtely into the Koran.

          • MadWorld

            Wel it must be in reverse then, hadith is a tradition that predates the Quran, Sunnah are based on Muhammad’s words & deeds.
            Who cares.
            Thank you anyway for the correction.

    • Voxclara

      Kemajuan means advancement in both Indonesian and Melayu

  • Dewi Thompson

    “For the 13th year in a row, Indonesia has been included on a watchlist of countries with appalling religious freedoms.”

    Now that is something to be proud of and by the looks of the fellow in the picture above he looks like he is going for year 14.

    13 years ago? Who was the President of Indonesia when this trend started?

  • Fransisko Lojaya

    I would rather see this country turns secular. Religion is a never ending conflict.

  • oraisoturu

    Swiss muslims were barred from building their place of worship. British Muslims were not allowed to erect what would have been the largest Mosque in London. Muslims in Moscow have been banned from conducting weekly prayer in the urban areas.

    Why on earth do those stories never appear in this site? Why don’t the self proclaimed well educated, middle class, whose high priest is Richard Dawkins and whose holy book is The Origin of Species, the regular commentators on this site ( Islam bashers to be precise) never give it a damn?
    JG is and has been an Islamophobic propaganda media.

    • Mike Johnson

      Dont know about Switzerland or Moscow, but there are at least a couple of thousand mosques in England, in-fact wherever there is a Muslim community, and there are many Muslim communities living in peace and harmony. One I know personally of just outside London has a capacity for 10,000 worshippers. Check it out for yourself (Dont know if it will count though as its Ahmadiyya). Do also check out the East London Mosque, . There is also no law that would prohibit a small group gathering in a private house for prayer, should there be no convenient place of worship to attend. In addition, I believe that there are many thousands of Mosques across Europe.

      I think you are not comparing like for like. I think you are picking isolated incidences that you read about.

      I do-not know of the case you quote of the banning of a Mosque in London. Please post the details so that we can all see exactly why this decision was made.

  • MehShotgun

    As an atheist, you have now earned my respect. Good day sir and live long and prosper!