Govt should not rely on MUI fatwa in handling Gafatar: Groups
Marguerite Afra Sapiie
The Jakarta Post
The government should adhere to the 1945 Constitution in handling the Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar), an organization allegedly involved in recent missing person cases, and not issue any related regulations based on a fatwa from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), human rights activists have said.
Setara Institute deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos said since Gafatar had never declared itself as an organization affiliated with a particular religious group, including Islam, the government could not use MUI edicts to take measures against the organization's freedom of belief and association.
"MUI edicts cannot be a source of law [...] A government based on constitutional rights should not have its governing functions limited," Bonar said in Jakarta on Monday.
Even though the MUI, which was established in 1975 during the New Order administration of late former president Soeharto, is a civil society organization, the Council has been given authority to issue edicts on various governance issues.
As a result, Bonar said, the MUI had become a semi-governmental institution, and its function to represent the Indonesian Muslim community had been strengthened by various rules and regulations.
The rights activist said the tendency of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to support the MUI on the issuance of edicts had given the Council a green light to claim its voice in public affairs and undermine minority voices.
'As a result, the government often thinks that MUI edicts should not be ignored,' said Bonar.
Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin on Friday said the ministry would wait for an MUI edict on whether or not Gafatar had promoted deviant religious teachings before making an official announcement on the group.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) chairman Rafendi Djamin said it was still acceptable for the government to consider an MUI edict in making a decision on Gafatar, but added that the government should not use it like a source of law.
"The government cannot refer to the MUI in issuing a law. It should refer to the 1945 Constitution and existing laws," Rafendi said.
In line with international covenants and declarations, the activist said, the 1945 Constitution protected the rights of the Indonesian people to freedom of belief and association as long as their belief did not involve violence and did not tend to make arbitrary interpretations over other religious teachings.
Rafendi said that since Gafatar followers were not proven to have committed religious practices in violation of existing laws and had only migrated to remote areas of Kalimantan to develop agriculture, the government had no excuse not to protect them.
Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH) spokesperson Pratiwi Febri pointed out that Gafatar had disbanded itself in December 2015. Followers of the organization, she said, had never declared themselves a religious group but declared that they were only citizens who pledged allegiance to the state ideology of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. Thus, Pratiwi said, it was irrelevant whether the government related the group with deviant religious teachings before first investigating it. (ebf)(+)