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INDONESIA POLLS: Presidential bets seen vague on tackling tolerance

Publication Date : 20-06-2014


While the Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa ticket is embracing firebrand groups in its coalition, the Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Jusuf Kalla ticket says it will enforce the law and stamp out religious intolerance.

A member of the Prabowo-Hatta campaign team, Kastorius Sinaga, said the ticket would not tolerate the presence of conservative groups that rejected pluralism and religious freedom, including the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

“We embrace all the support we receive, as long as they agree with our stance. Otherwise, they’re out,” Kastorius said in a recent discussion.

He added that for the time being, the Gerindra Party coalition could accept the presence of the FPI as proof of its inclusive approach.

“We’ll accept them for now, but later, we’ll guide them according to our principles,” he added.

Kastorius, who is also a Democratic Party politician, said such an inclusive approach would also be adopted in regard to various political parties that made up the Gerindra coalition.

Recently, Gerindra came under heavy criticism for using the phrase “religious purification” in its party manifesto.

Many have accused Gerindra of instigating discrimination against minority sects within Islam, as it implied that Prabowo, if elected, would start a program to bring back members of the sects to the mainstream teachings of Islam. Kastorius said the phrase was down to an editorial error.

Prabowo’s brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, who is also the deputy chairman of Gerindra’s patron board, said the party had dropped the “purification of religious teachings” program from the manifesto, following criticism from many quarters.

Last year, Hashim said he gave the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono an F-minus grade on ensuring religious tolerance.

He said violence in recent years against Christian, Ahmadiyah — a minority Islamic sect — and other minorities showed a “total failure” by the Yudhoyono administration to ensure religious tolerance.

Hashim also said Prabowo, if elected president, would enforce laws that protected religious freedom.

Meanwhile, a member of the Jokowi-Kalla presidential campaign team, Siti Musdah Mulia, said if elected, the ticket would improve the legal system so that it could empower law enforcement agencies to take firm action against firebrand individuals and organisations that promoted intolerance.

Musdah also said the ticket planned to drop all regulations that had the potential to infringe on civil and political rights.

She said that one of the proposals included giving people the freedom to state whatever their religion was on their personal identification cards.

A potential Jokowi-Kalla administration could even remove information regarding faith from the ID cards.

“Consistent with our vision and mission, then the information regarding faith on ID cards could be completed with any religious affiliation, or else we should just drop it altogether,” said Musdah.

However, on Thursday, Jokowi said he had no plan to drop the religion section from ID cards.

“We have Pancasila as our country’s foundation. Its first article clearly says ‘Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa’ [The Belief in One God], so [having a religion] is part of our character and identity,” Jokowi told reporters in Tegal, Central Java.

He said there was no practical reason to drop the religion section from ID cards.

“Why should we remove it [from IDs] if we know that this concerns our national identity?” he said.

“The Bhinneka Tunggal Ika [Unity in Diversity] principle must be upheld.”

Surveys, including those from the Wahid Institute and Setara Institute, showed an increase in religious violence every year during Yudhoyono’s two five-year terms.

The Yudhoyono administration is considered to have comprehensively failed to deal with cases of religious-based violence, including attacks against followers of the

Ahmadiyah in Cikeusik, Banten, and Shiites in Sampang, East Java.

The illegal closure of churches, such as the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin in Bogor and Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) Filadelfia in Bekasi, by local government administrations, has also shown government inaction in the face of pressure from intolerant groups.


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