Indonesia may not have ‘silent majority’
Increasing religious intolerance as documented in a recent survey should be blamed on official indecisiveness in confronting hostile radical groups, an activist has said.
“Some surveys show that, in fact, there’s no ‘silent majority’ that supports pluralism. The majority of Indonesian people probably still practice religious intolerance,” Wahid Institute director Zannuba “Yenny” Wahid said on Wednesday.
Radical groups condoned by the authorities have affected how communities understand pluralism and religious difference, she added.
“Increasing intolerance is most likely carried out by radical groups that will eventually spread intolerance in society. They also question pluralism,” Yenny said.
Yenny was commenting on a report released by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that showed intolerance was on the rise in Indonesia.
According to the survey, 68.2 percent of respondents did not want people from different faiths to build places of worship in their neighborhoods.
The survey also found that while 83.4 percent of respondents claimed that they would accept neighbors from a different ethnic group, 79.3 percent objected interreligious marriage.
Yenny, the daughter of late president Abdurrahman Wahid and a campaigner for pluralism, said intolerance could be curbed by law enforcement and government intervention.
“In the end, only the government can stop the spread of radical movements across the nation by enforcing the law and promoting the value of tolerance,” Yenny said.
According to Yenny, a Wahid Institute survey reported 92 religious freedom violations in 2011, up 18 percent from 62 in the previous year.
The Wahid Institute, an organization promoting pluralism and peaceful Islam, also recorded 49 cases of prohibiting and restricting religion practices and 85 “controversial statements” from Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali in the same period.
Separately, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy chairman Ma’ruf Amin stood his ground on opposing interfaith marriage.
“Tolerance means that we are able to live side by side and peacefully with people from different faiths. Interfaith marriage, however, has nothing to do with tolerance. It’s a different context,” he said on Wednesday.
According to Islamic teachings, he said, Muslim women were not permitted to marry non-Muslims. “It’s part of the basic teachings.”
On places of worship, Ma’ruf said that people should refer to the joint ministerial decree on the subject that was the fruit of deliberations held by religious leaders in the country.
Ma’ruf said he agreed with the 80 percent of the respondents to the CSIS survey who said all restaurants should close during the day during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan, calling it an example of tolerance.
“That’s a sign of respect for Muslim people during Ramadhan. If the restaurant owners wish to have their places open, they must put up a screen to conceal them,” he said.(aml/tas)