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Indonesia needs to take stern action to stop violence against minorities

Publication Date : 19-07-2012


The government needs to show its authority and power in their actions toward religious violence carried out by radical organisations, otherwise minority groups will remain the victims of repeated hostility.

A number of activists who promote pluralism have called on the government to adopt tough measures against radical groups.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla, Muslim scholar and Democratic Party leader, said the government was not stern enough in dealing with intolerant groups. This had made those groups think their actions were justified, he said.

"I am a Democratic Party member, but I am disappointed in Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration in dealing with cases of violence against minority groups," Abdalla said during the opening of the Abdurrahman Wahid Centre at the University of Indonesia in Depok, outskirt of Jakarta, yesterday.

The opening was attended by the family members of Abdurrahman, better known as Gus Dur. Also present at the event were religious leaders and academics who held a discussion regarding the worsening of the nation's condition in relation to religious tolerance.

The inauguration of the centre was held in the wake of recent violence against minority groups.

Just recently, locals attacked a residential area, where around 500 Ahmadis resided in Mukhsin's village in Cisalada, Bogor, West Java. The attack was one of many hostilities recently targeting religious minority groups.

A survey by human rights watchdog Setara Institute shows that 244 cases of violence, mostly against minority groups such as Ahmadiyah, Shiites and Christians occurred in Indonesia in 2011.

This year alone, there were 129 cases of violence against minority groups.

The Communion of Indonesian Churches (PGI) theological commission coordinator Albertus Patty said the repeated incidents indicated the government’s weakness. "When people said that we're becoming a failed state, it was not a cheap joke," he said. He also criticised lawmakers within the House of Representatives (DPR) for not taking action to stop the violence. Patty claimed the authority had corrupted the Constitution, as it did not follow court rulings in cases such as the establishment of churches in Bogor and Bekasi, West Java.

The Christians in Bogor and Bekasi have the legal basis for the establishment of the churches, but the administration offers no protection to the worshippers from attacks by radical groups.

Another example is the prosecution of Shiite cleric Tajul Muluk. Instead of protecting the minority group, the government criminalised the victim. The Sampang district court in Madura found Muluk guilty of blasphemy against Islam, and imposed a sentence.

Muluk was a victim of violence, whose house and Islamic boarding school was burned down by an angry mob in December last year.

Yenny Wahid, the daughter of Gus Dur, deplored the verdict against Muluk, expressing that Muluk was the real victim.

"Shiite and Sunni have had different principles for centuries, and we cannot imprison somebody based on the fact that his faith does not follow the majority," she said.

Yenny said that the government should protect the religious freedom of all citizens, despite their different faiths or religions. "They [Shiite and Ahmadis] are good citizens who pay taxes. They deserve equal rights," she said.

Meanwhile, Abdalla said that the government was always afraid of taking stern action because religious issues were sensitive. "I do not see that the government has any willingness to be brave enough now," he said.

Patty predicted that if violent actions toward religious minority groups continues and the government did not take clear and decisive action in response, the country could split up.


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