The Minority Dilemma in Indonesia

Haris Fatwa Dinal Maula March 23, 2022394

The Minority Dilemma in Indonesia

Charles Coppel in his book, Indonesian Chinese in Crisis , says;

Indonesian Chinese people are like eating simalakama fruit When they think about politics. If they are involved in oppositional politics, they are labeled as subversive. If they supported the rulers of the time, they were labeled opportunists. And if they stay away from politics, they are also opportunists because they are said to be only interested in making money.

This quote is the main indication of how the Chinese as a minority become the ‘wrong’ side in their every action. In Indonesia, the dilemma that occurs is not only about that, but also religious minorities who are often faced with difficult choices in the midst of their lives.

Before going any deeper, it is necessary to evaluate the term majority-minority. The term, so far, continues to colonize our subconscious. In effect, it generates a view of who we are and who they are. This is because minorities are often understood simply as ‘statistics’ or those who are small in quantity, and conversely the majority as those who are dominant.

Some critics say that the majority-minority often refers to the politics of numbers that are vulnerable to being politicized in the context of the nation and state. Others argue that majority-minority is actually a term that emphasizes negative social segregation in the dynamics of society.

However, I borrow the concept of minority according to Ahmad Najib Burhani’s frame of mind. He said that the term minority is used to clarify problems, provide moral support and help those who are disadvantaged in society or who are opposed by some communities. Simply put, minority is used to identify those who are subordinated and neglected. They are weak people, not only because of quantity, but also because they are often marginalized and even discriminated against by the dominant. In the Qur’an, they are termed the word mustadh’afin .

In addition to the Chinese mentioned above, the minority here also refers to groups of religious sects. This paper cites two groups that are often promoted by the media, the Ahmadiyya and followers of the faith. The Ahmadiyya, for example, are forced to leave their faith with the guarantee that their religious rights are protected. Like other religious people, the matter of belief is absolute. People will tend to stick to their beliefs even though they are offered sweet guarantees.

The Ahmadiyah case was legitimized by a Joint Decree from the government on June 9, 2008 concerning Warnings and Orders to Adherents, Members, and/or Members of the Indonesian Ahmadiyya Congregation (JAI) and members of the public. The decree stipulates that Ahmadiyah may still exist, but they do not have the right to freedom of religion like other religious people. Just imagine we are faced with a choice like this. Changing his beliefs or rights will be restricted.

The other group is the believers of faith. In the New Order era, this sect was identified as a deviant sect, pro-communist, and a problem group. They are studied and recorded for later ‘guidance’ or ‘return’ to the right path in the name of development and rationalization. The adherents of this belief are perceived as ‘underdeveloped’, ‘backward’, and ‘animistic’ people.

In fact, the right to religion and belief for followers has been absent since the New Order era. Believers are not given a choice like the Ahmadiyya. Instead, they were immediately given an ultimatum, if they did not embrace one of the official religions in Indonesia, they would be stigmatized as people who are heretical and uncooperative towards the state’s vision and mission. A dilemma similar to that faced by the Ahmadiyya.

In the reform era, even though the ‘force’ is gone, the dilemma is still felt. Believers cannot include the name of their belief in the ID column. They have to write down the official religion in Indonesia to gain access to their rights as citizens. Although in 2006, the Constitutional Court through its decision no. 97/2016 regarding the Adminduk Law, it has been stated that Believers can include their names on Electronic ID cards, they are still socially marginalized.

This is due to the stigmatization of those who are still attached. This stigmatization, in particular, continues to last as a result of the ‘act’ of the fundamentalists. Armed with a conservative understanding of religion, they disbelieve and mislead the followers of local religions. Not only for the followers, they also attach this label to the Ahmadiyah sect in Indonesia. This label seems to have an influence on the public’s perspective on the Ahmadiyya congregation.

In the middle of 2018, there was destruction of the Ahmadiyya congregation’s settlement in East Lombok. People there say that if the Ahmadiyya congregation wants to be accepted in society, then they must return to the true teachings of Islam. This is really sad. How can theological issues then continue into a humanitarian crisis. But again, matters of belief cannot be intervened that easily.

The two groups above are examples of minority groups in Indonesia. The mention of minorities in this case, again, is not an attempt to divide society. But as a form of our alignment with those who are weak, those who are marginalized, those who are discriminated against.

As moderate Muslims, we should not necessarily force them to follow us. Inviting may but of course without coercion. We should never injure the principles of Islamic da’wah, la ikraha fiddin . Don’t let the arrogance of Muslims, which is larger in quantity, then rob us of the welfare of our other brothers and sisters. As citizens, they have the same rights to life. As humans, they are also given the same freedom of thought.

This issue should be a common awareness. These stigmas do not only affect their personality, but also on the social rights they should get. Such as the convenience of worship and freedom of expression. It is enough for us to see them worship in peace. Always remember the advice that often comes out of Habib Ja’far’s mouth, “ if he is not your brother in religion, then he is your brother in humanity. 

Haris Fatwa Dinal Maula

Haris Fatwa Dinal Maula

Activist of Religious Moderation at the Islamic Institute, CRCS UGM Student, Yogyakarta


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