Indonesia more tolerant than perceived: LSI
Margareth S. Aritonang
The Jakarta Post
A new survey conducted by the Indonesia Survey Circle (LSI) found that the majority of people are tolerant and concerned about worsening discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities.
According to the survey, conducted between Dec. 14 and 17, only 10 percent of respondents condoned discrimination against minority groups in the country and insisted that minority groups should submit to the wishes of the majority.
LSI, however, found that although intolerant people were few in number, they were opinion setters who wielded influence in their communities.
The survey outfit found that intolerant groups could inflict violence on a regular basis because of lax law enforcement.
“These groups include, among others, members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI). These people are very vocal and actively reach out to society declaring that they represent the majority of the population to legitimize their violent actions [against members of minority groups]. We now know that they are the minority,” LSI researcher Adjie Alfaraby said in a press briefing on Sunday.
He said that radical groups could freely commit violence because of the inaction of moderate groups.
“These people would not dare impose their will if the majority Indonesians were united in rejecting their arbitrary actions. It would also help if the government enforced the law strictly when there are violent acts,” he added.
In its latest survey, LSI interviewed 440 respondents from around the country in focus group discussions. Field workers also had in-depth interviews with the respondents over the country’s diversity.
In the survey, 88.84 percent of the respondents favored equality among all religious groups, and only 9.15 percent insisted that the government should favor members of the majority religion.
When asked about ethnicity issues, 93.04 percent of the respondents were of the opinion that ethnic identity should not determine treatment toward others.
Only 5.22 percent wanted special treatment for those of the ethnic majority.
LSI found that in spite of the spirit of tolerance among members of the community, politics made it difficult to promote respect for those of other faiths and ethnicity.
“Politicians will capture members of this small, powerful group to get support for their political interests. We, for example, identified that violent attacks by such groups tend to escalate during certain periods,” Novriantoni Kahar from nonprofit group Denny JA Foundation said.
Novriantoni said that religious clashes tended to happen, both at local and national levels, at around the time of elections.
Although the majority of the respondents accepted differences, only half of them said they would accept leaders, particularly at the local administration level, of different faiths and ethnicity.
Of six minority categories given as options, women were the most welcomed to lead in local government, with homosexuals being the most frowned upon.
Other categories included atheists, Ahmadis, Shiites and adherents to different faiths.
“This reflects the condition of our society. People would tend to vote for female candidates rather than male Ahmadis or Shiites, for example,” LSI researcher Adjie said.
The finding also confirmed LSI’s study released in October citing gays and lesbians as the group most likely to face the highest level of hostility.
According to the survey, rejection of having gay or lesbian neighbors had increased significantly since 2005 as Indonesians would prefer to live next door to people of other faiths, even with those they deem deviant like Shia or Ahmadiyah.
“However, having seen that the majority of Indonesians in fact embrace differences, we want to encourage leaders of this country to promote and protect these differences. We also want to suggest that candidates running in the 2014 presidential election not be afraid to advocate differences over the fear of losing votes,” Adjie added.
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