A letter to the Religious Minister of Indonesia

Humanity remains one.  kemanusiaan tunggal ika.

The Jakarta Post:

By Natalia Laskowska,

Dear Minister Suryadharma Ali.

I wish to share with you the feeling of restlessness that may be common to many who have heard of your advocacy for solving the violence against the Ahmadiyah community. Most of us have in our memories the heart-wrenching images from the fatal 2011 attack on the community in Cikeusik, West Java, and most of us would undoubtedly say: “This must not happen again.” Yet your current policy is unlikely to prevent it. On the contrary, it may lead to a double victimization of those affected.

The first time the news agencies publicized your initiative to apply the same “solution” in Indonesia that Pakistan took against members of Ahmadiyah, I was hoping it was a slip of the tongue. And I would have tried to hold on to my delusion, had not an increasing number of mosques belonging to the Ahmadi community been closed down by local authorities in Indonesia. This is already disturbing but, before it is too late, let me briefly share my feelings about what the “solution” you referred to really meant.

In Pakistan the movement demanding that the Ahmadiyah community be forcibly declared by the state as non-Muslim began in the early 1950s. The incitement to violence spurred by this movement was suppressed by the authorities for two decades.

However, in 1974, Pakistan’s National Assembly amended the constitution and the exclusivist movement was satisfied: Ahmadis were from then on officially declared a non-Muslim minority.

When a few months back you spoke of the “solution”, I could not stop thinking about the similar wording used in 1974 by the Pakistani prime minister, who hoped to arrive at “an effective, just and final solution”. And with “final solutions”, in regards to minorities of any kind, my basic knowledge of world history does not let me forget: they are always genocidal in nature.


The Pakistani “solution” served and continues to serve as a justification for religiously-motivated persecution. While initially the violence was exercised by non-state agents, the state began to participate in it as well, a few years after the amendment. Did it bring peace? No, oppression never does.

Your recent appeal to the Shiite community to renounce their identity and become adherents of Sunni denomination also cannot be seen as an attempt at religious peacebuilding. Men of power tend to trigger sectarian sentiments in order to channel social unrest into religious grievances, but this strategy is dangerous, vicious, maleficent and extremely unjust.

It makes me think about the tragic events of Karbala, which represented the struggle for liberation from unjust rulers — from the early Umayyads back then, and from the oppression and lack of state protection nowadays.

we love pluralism

The martyrdom of Karbala did not just happen once; it features in history each time oppressed women and men stand against injustice.

You must remember how this year and last year the impotence and indifference of Pakistan’s authorities brought thousands of Shiite mourners to sit-ins. In the blistering cold they protested against genocide. They were sitting with the dead bodies of their loved ones whom they refused to bury unless the state took action against the perpetrators of the massacres. A desperate cry for protection and justice. Like the cry of people in the desert to whom nobody cared to give water.

I am convinced that you would never wish to witness the extreme violence that Pakistan faces every day in Indonesia. The reason for this violence is not only the Taliban, for “Taliban” is merely a name that a group of people used to describe itself. The name has no power on its own, but the reality behind it does. This reality is a mind-set filled with hatred and exclusion. This reality comes into being when people striking for political advantage lead others away from the core concept of humanity.

Is there a solution to theological differences? Yes. Embrace them, appreciate them and love the people behind them. Any other option will most probably become not only inhuman but anti-human. And any other option will be anti-Indonesian as well.

Indonesian liberation was preceded by consultations that yielded a set of principles for the basis of the new independent state. Most of these ideals, as we have seen throughout the past decades, can accommodate new interpretations. For example, the signification of ketuhanan (belief in God) is not one — it conveniently embraces plurality in religious beliefs. Similarly, other points of the Pancasila state ideology invite new readings and renditions.

But there is one exception: kemanusiaan (humanity). As long as we do not fail to acknowledge what is common to all of us, as long as we are born as children of human parents, humanity gives us the right to be and to act as equals in the world we all share.

Humanity remains one. Kemanusiaan remains one — kemanusiaan tunggal ika.

The writer is pursuing her PhD degree at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies in the Netherlands, specializing in Southeast Asian studies, religious freedom and contemporary Islamic studies.

Reference: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/03/14/kemanusiaan-tunggal-ika-love-ahmadis.html

Categories: Asia, Indonesia

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