West Sumatra scores lowest in religious freedom: UNDP
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani
The Jakarta Post
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has revealed that Indonesia's democratic credentials remained on the same level between 2009 and 2014, with three provinces ' West Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) and South Kalimantan ' dropping to the bottom of the list.
UNDP's Indonesian Democracy Index (IDI) shows a lack of religious freedom as the most problematic issue, and one that has become a threat to civil liberty in the country.
West Sumatra received the lowest score in the report, with a worsening trend over the six-year period. The region scored 24.06 in 2014 on a 0-100 scale, a decline by 3.14 points from the previous year.
NTB scored between 35 and 55 points in the six years, hitting a low of 37.43 points 2013, before slightly improving to 38.19 the following year.
South Kalimantan saw stagnant scores between 30 and 36 from 2011 to 2014, but remained far below the 51.16 points recorded back in 2010.
'The provinces often appeared as the bottom three in the six years, although cases of religious-based violations and discrimination also happened in many other areas,' UNDP Indonesia's representative and IDI project manager Fajar Nursahid said during a discussion on Sunday.
He added that discriminative bylaws in the three regions were taken into account as indicators of the index.
In West Sumatra, the cities and regencies of Padang, Pasaman, Pesisir Selatan, Sawah Lunto and Solok have implemented bylaws obliging citizens to dress in Muslim attire, while proficiency in reading and writing Koran verses is also compulsory in those five regions.
'The bylaws may have good purposes as West Sumatra is dominated by Muslims, but issuing the regulations means coercing [others to abide by the majority's interests],' Fajar said.
In NTB, discrimination of religious minorities affected mostly members of the Ahmadi community. From 1983 until 2011, the regional administration has several times issued decrees banning Ahmadis from practicing their religious activities and spreading their beliefs.
Banjar regency in South Kalimantan issued a bylaw in 2004 prohibiting food stalls, as well as cafes and restaurants, to operate on fasting days. It also prohibits smoking during the day. In 2010, Banjarmasin issued a bylaw on the compulsory reading and writing of Koran verses at elementary, middle and high schools.
The head of the Bogor-based agrarian study center Sajogyo Institute was of the opinion that religious discrimination was often just cover for agrarian conflicts related to the exploitation of natural resources.
'Religious motives are number four. The first is land conflicts, followed by social conflicts and political competition. The players intentionally create religious divisions,' Sajogyo Institute executive director Eko Cahyono said.
Discrimination of followers of the Sunda Wiwitan faith in Kuningan, West Java, for example, was in fact a conspiracy concocted by some individuals, Eko claimed, adding that private parties had paid local religious leaders to portray Sunda Wiwitan adherents as infidels, thereby stoking religious conflict and forcing many residents to leave a gold-rich area, freeing it up for exploitation by others.
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