Friday, June 21, 2013

Extremism Overpowering Indonesia

by Mohshin Habib

Nations are falling like tenpins.
Nations are falling like tenpins: not only Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and nations throughout the Gulf, but now also Turkey, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Egypt, and increasingly large swaths of Africa and South America. After the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, it is not hard to guess what will happen while we await the outcome in Libya, Syria and Lebanon. Now bigotry is overwhelming the most populous but formerly moderate Muslim nation, Indonesia.

During her first visit there as a new Secretary of State in 2009, Hillary Rodham Clinton remarked at a dinner in Jakarta on February 18, "As I travel around the world over the next years, I will be saying to the people if you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women's rights can co-exists, go to Indonesia."

But now Indonesia has become a state where extremism and fundamentalism are rapidly increasing; it has now unsafe for both non-Sunni Muslims and liberals. The country's constitutional guarantee of religious freedom is under heavy threat. The country's Islamists are now at the highest point of their campaign to establish a Sharia state, while the government is from time to time leaning toward that by introducing new legal codes.

Released lat month, the most recent Pew study says that 72% of Indonesian Muslims are supportive of Shariah law and want it to be a legal code in the country. The study also found that nearly half of Indonesian Muslims approved of corporal punishments such as stoning for adulterers (48%) and amputation for thieves (45%).

An Amnesty International report accused Indonesia of adopting the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration despite serious concerns that it fell short of international standards. The Indonesian legislative framework remains inadequate to deal with allegations of torture and other ill-treatment. Caning continues to be used in Aceh province as a form of judicial punishment for Sharia offences. The Amnesty International report also says that religious minorities, including Ahmaddiya, Shias and Christians face ongoing discrimination, intimidation and attacks.

Last February, a group of UN human rights experts urged Indonesia to amend a bill on Mass Organizations. The proposed legislation would require organizations to register with the Ministry of Home affairs and affirm that they believe in only one God. The UN experts said they feared that if the bill were left unchanged, it would inhibit freedom of assembly, freedom of speech about religion and ultimately undermine the nation's efforts towards democratization.

Andreas Harsono, the co-author of the new report, "In Religion's Name: Abuses Against Religious Minorities in Indonesia (Human Rights Watch, 2013), writes, "As of 2012 Indonesia had over 280 religiously motivated regulations restricting minority rights."

It is now clear that the massive Indonesian Sunni community is harshly trying to establish a monolithic state.

Recently, the London-based Miss World organization omitted the famed bikinis from this year's pageant in Indonesia. Parts of the pageant will take place in the resort island of Bali; the final round will be held on September 28 near the capital Jakarta. Miss World organizers said the 137 women in the competition would instead wear one-piece swimwear, some of which will also have Sarongs (one kind of traditional clothing) over the top. Nonetheless the clerics of Indonesian Council of Ulema said they would send a letter to President Yudhoyono to demand that the beauty pageant be cancelled.

The leadership of Hiz-but-Tahrir Indonesia, one of the hard-line Islamist groups, said it planned to stage a protest to call for the competition to be moved elsewhere. The leadership of another radical group, named Garis, said the beauty contest is too American and not suitable for Indonesia. Chep Hernawan from Garis added, that it would disband the event, nicely at first, or, "if they insist," by force.

Last month the U.S. rock band Aerosmith cancelled a concert in Jakarta due to lack of security. Earlier, the pop star Lady Gaga was forced to pull out of a concert after hard-line Muslims, saying her performance were immoral, threatened to disrupt her show

On 2 June 2013, Hizb-ut-Tahrir held a conference attended by more than 130,000 people. The message of the conference was that "the world is experiencing a great and imminent transition towards the Islamic Khilafah."

With such support for fundamentalism combined with the government's legal support, persecution of minorities has been increasing every day.

Human Rights Watch's 'World Report 2013' says, "Senior officials, including the Religious affairs Minister and Home Affairs Minister, continued to justify restrictions on religious freedom in the name of public order. They both offered affected minorities 'relocation' rather than legal protection of their rights." The organization referenced the Setara institute of Indonesia, which monitors religious freedom; according to Setara, religious attacks increased from 216 in 2010, to 244 in 2011, and to 214 in just the first nine months of 2012.

Only last month, the U.S based Appeal of Conscience Foundation awarded President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a high-profile prize for promoting tolerance. But at a time the world apparently does not want to notice, let alone lift a finger to help, the crying of the Christians, Ahmaddiyas, Shias and other minorities in these colorful lands.

Mohshin Habib


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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