Freedom of religion at risk

In this file photo, members of Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI) pray on the veranda of the Nur Khilafat Mosque in Ciamis, West Java, on June 26, 2014. Local authorities sealed the mosque and hung posters detailing the ban on JAI members using the mosque. (Courtesy of Perkumpulan 6211/File)

Editorial board (The Jakarta Post) Jakarta   ●   Mon, September 13, 2021

The Reform movement more than 20 years ago led to significant changes to the state’s commitment to the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion. The Constitution was amended to affirm every citizen’s right to choose their faith and have the freedom to practice the religion of their choice.

But a recent attack on a mosque belonging to the minority Ahmadiyah community in Sintang, West Kalimantan, shows a prevailing gap between the state’s principle and its implementation – something the post-New Order governments have failed to address. Clearly, an act of violence against people because of their belief is a blatant violation of the Constitution, and as in the latest ransacking of the Ahmadis’ place of worship, the state contributed to the persecution.

Hundreds of security personnel reportedly stood by as people grouped under the Islamic People’s Alliance (AUI) stormed the Miftahul Huda mosque, which had previously been sealed by the Sintang administration, apparently following pressure from the hardline, intolerant group.

True, the police eventually enforced the law against the attackers, and the religious affairs minister has condemned the act of religious violence. At least 22 people have been named suspects and will face charges of collective violence and incitement to commit criminal acts for their role in the incident.

But such enforcement of the law is too little too late to end the deep-rooted discrimination against religious minorities, which, unfortunately, has been justified by regulations adopted by the national and regional governments. It is safe to say that the regulations were formulated in favor of the majority at the expense of the minorities and for the sake of popular support.

There were cases in which the regional-level political elite proposed sharia-influenced bylaws simply to maintain power, regardless of the fact that Indonesia as a nation-state was founded by virtues of diversity. The fact that the political elite is keen to misuse religion for their own short-term interest has explained to some extent why religious conservatism is said to be spreading in the country.

There is no denying that religious minorities have for decades been living under the so-called tyranny of the majority, who would like to force its will and define what is right or wrong.

Apart from Ahmadiyah followers, the Shiite community, indigenous belief adherents and other minority religious groups have come under the constant threat of discrimination.

We, therefore, support calls for the revocation of a 2008 joint decree signed by the home minister, the religious affairs minister and the attorney general as it — according to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) — only works to legitimize violent acts against the Ahmadiyah.

As long as the decree remains in place, another attack on the Ahmadis will occur in the future. Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas has pledged to uphold the rights of religious minorities, including Ahmadiyah followers. He can act on his words by initiating a rollback of the controversial decree.

The next step for Yaqut would be to scrap regulations and legislation that undermine freedom of religion such as the joint ministerial decree on building houses of worship and the obsolete Religious Blasphemy Law.

This article was published in thejakartapost.com with the title “Freedom of religion at risk – Editorial – The Jakarta Post”. Click to read: https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2021/09/13/freedom-of-religion-at-risk.html.

1 reply

  1. We deeply appreciate that the Editors of this leading newspaper The Jakarta Post speak out in defence of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and in favour of religious freedom for all.

    The worrying aspect of this incident – not much spoken about yet – is that the Ahmadi Muslims that have been ‘put under protection’ may not be able to return home in the near future, if at all. Ahmadi Muslims in Lombok for instance, who have been displaced years ago, are still in temporary ‘protected’ accomodation… without any hint when and if they may return to their old homes.

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