Indonesia: going the Pakistan way?

Religious intolerance seems to be on the rise in the Muslim world. The recent attacks on the Ahmediyya community and the Christian community in Indonesia should ring alarm bells for all Muslim countries. Just a few days ago, three Ahmedis were killed when a mob attacked the minority sect in Banten province. In 2008, Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister, Home Minister and Attorney General signed a decree that ordered the Ahmedis to “stop spreading interpretations and activities which deviate from the principal teachings of Islam” and “spreading of the belief that there is another prophet with his own teachings after Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)”. If an Ahmedi violates this decree, he/she is subject to up to five years of imprisonment. On the other hand, hardliner Islamists attacked a court and torched two churches and vandalised a Catholic school after a court sentenced a Christian man, Antonius Richmond Bawengan, to five years in prison for blasphemy. He was found guilty of handing out books and leaflets that “spread hatred about Islam”. This is the maximum penalty for blasphemy under Indonesia’s Criminal Code’s Article 156(a). Despite this, Muslim extremists are asking for a death sentence for the convicted man or that he be handed over to them (after which it is obvious the ‘death sentence’ would be carried out).Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world with more than 80 percent Muslims, a large number of Hindus, and a smattering of Christians and other religions. In recent years, under the influence of al Qaeda, some Islamic terror groups have gained strength in Indonesia. The 2002 Bali bombings were carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah, a radical Islamist group. Despite convicting most of the perpetrators of that hideous attack, fundamentalism kept growing in the country.

It is disconcerting to see Indonesia, which used to be a highly tolerant society, going Pakistan’s way. The universal appeal of a caliphate and the so-called ‘Muslim Ummah’ has obliterated national differences and tolerance in many Muslim countries. Saudi Arabia’s Wahabiism can be seen as the root cause of this rising intolerance. Though Wahabis claim to ‘purify’ Islam of all ‘deviations’, in essence they have done great injustice to the message of Islam, i.e. peaceful coexistence of all religions. It is time for the moderate Muslims to intellectually defeat the trend of hardliner Islamists. The Indonesians should learn a lesson from Pakistan where the religious right has grown so strong with the backing of powerful quarters that liberal and progressive voices have been almost muted. If the Indonesians do not learn from our example, a violent future awaits them – Dailytimes