Archive for the 'Religion' Category

Pluralism on the wane

According to a recent study, a majority of Islamic studies teachers express sentiments against pluralism.

The Jakarta Post:

“[The study] reveals 68.6 percent of the respondents are opposed to non-Muslims becoming their school principleand 33.8 percent are opposed to having non-Muslim teachers at their schools.

Some 73.1 percent of the teachers don’t want followers of other religions to build their houses of worship in their neighborhoods, it found.

Some 85.6 percent of the teachers prohibit their students from celebrating big events perceived as Western traditions, while 87 percent tell their students not to learn about other religions.

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Promoting Pluralism in West Java

I have previously posted on some depressing cases of religious intolerance. Those cases do seem more prevalent than cases of tolerance. Therefore it is all the more heartening to read occassional examples of the latter.

In the latest issue of Inside Indonesia, Joanne McMillan accounts for one inspiring West Javanese example of religious tolerance.

Notably, it is the story of a Kyai – Kyai Maman – who before 1998 found it obvious to side with violent groups against ‘unbelievers’ and people of other faiths than his own. Only after seeing the dreadful incidents of violence – in connection with the Jakarta riots – did he move away from this position.

He now works at both grassroots and more recently political party levels to defend the consitution’s granting of religious freedom in the country.

It will be interesting to follow the work of Kyai Maman and others like him. How will their general view of Indonesia’s political problems and understanding of religion’s place, square with those of other parties? How will voters value this issue in relation to others? At an organisational level, it will be important to see whether there is room for anything like a ‘coalition of religious tolerance’. Will PKB be a lonely champion in this regard, and will it be a strong or weak such? How about PKS, a party that on other issues may have views that are quite close to PKB, and whose constituency is similar also? How about Golkar, who under Suharto favoured a somewhat less dogmatist Ministry of Religion.

Sadly right

Yesterday’s editorial in The Jakarta Post is sadly right: Parliament is supporting religious persecution of the Ahmadiyah religious sect

But Not Here

Indonesia is a religiously plural society. The vast majority is Muslim, but large minorities are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or animist. The Founding Fathers of Indonesia sought to recognize this fact in the national motto Bhinnéka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Traditionally, among some groups, monotheism has been mixed with animism or some local traditions, of demigods and so forth. The political system has also been pluralistic, but in a skewed sense. During the Suharto era only five religious denominations were allowed; Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, and Buddhist. Each citizen had to be a member of one of these groups. Thus, some local religions such as the Agama Jawa Sunda (West Java Religion) were banned and congregants had to choose one of the five recognized religions.

Over the past ten years there have been more and more cases of religious intolerance. Some religiously motivated vigilante groups have sought to close down karaoke bars, whose activities they deem inappropriate for the holy season, for instance of the Ramadan. Similar groups have violently obstructed gatherings of religious minorities. Such cases are nowadays frequently reported, not only because they have increased in number, but also because the media are freer to publish such cases. Not all cases make it in to the newspapers, however.
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