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Bigotry haunts nation

  • Haeril Halim, Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, and Bambang Muryanto

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Yogyakarta | Fri, December 9, 2016 | 07:34 am
Bigotry haunts nation Intolerance: A billboard featuring a female student wearing a hijab is erected at the corner of Sanata Dharma Catholic University in Yogyakarta. The Muslim People Forum (FUI) in the city has forced another university, Duta Wacana Christian University, to take down a similar billboard, claiming it will mislead Muslim students. (JP/Tarko Sudiarno)

The National Police have come under fire for failing to uphold the law in the face of intolerant actions by hard-line groups, which have become more assertive in the midst of rising conservatism in the country.

In the past three days, the country has seen at least two incidents where hard-line Muslims intimidated people of other faiths and forced them to give in to their demands.

A day after an Islamic group called the Ahlu Sunnah Defenders (PAS) in Bandung forced a Christian community to cancel a Christmas service on Tuesday, the Muslim People Forum (FUI) of Yogyakarta forced Duta Wacana Christian University (UKDW) to take down billboards that feature a student wearing a hijab on Wednesday.

The billboards show three female students, one of whom is wearing a hijab, studying in a library as a symbol of religious pluralism on the campus. The billboards have stood for about three months in a number of spots in Yogyakarta, including one on the campus compound, to welcome prospective freshmen.

It was not until Wednesday that the hard-line group claimed the billboards “insulted Islam”.

(Read also: FUI forces Christian university to drop billboard with hijab-clad student)

UKDW rector Henry Feriadi said campus management had no choice but to bow to the demands of the hard-line group because the university did not want to create noise that could disrupt activities at the campus and in Yogyakarta.

“The group said the billboards were misleading because it [hijab] is a symbol of Islam, and we did not ask permission from the mass organization to display such billboards. We never engage in proselytization [as accused] because we respect pluralism,” Henry told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

After the UKDW incident, other Christian universities in Yogyakarta fear they could be the next targets.

Atmajaya University in Yogyakarta may take down a billboard depicting a student wearing a hijab on Jl. Urip Sumoharjo in the city. Meanwhile, the Catholic Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta is also on alert following circulating information on social media that the FUI will pay a visit because the campus has a similar billboard displayed in front of the university.

The brazen acts of intimidation by hard-line groups has sparked concerns that the police are too soft in dealing with their antics.

Setara Institute chairman Hendardi criticized the police for failing to uphold the law and instead acting as a mediator when handling acts of intolerance. “Sometimes the police get confused over what they need to do in such a situation, so they always bow to pressure from intolerant groups,” Hendardi said.

(Read also: Catholic university refuses to remove billboards with hijab-clad student)

The police should take firm action against intolerant groups, National Awakening Party (PKB) lawmaker Maman Imanulhaq said.

“Those groups think they are free to do anything they want. That’s because law enforcers have never been firm,” he added.

National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar dismissed accusations that the force had bowed to hard-line groups and defended their approach of mediating conflicting parties rather than enforcing the law.

“If the intolerant groups violate the law and move to conduct violence such as torture or destruction, they will be punished for sure.For now , mediation is important to find the root cause of the problems,” Boy said.

Police have been under pressure from hard-line Islamic groups following the blasphemy accusation against Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.

After speeding up the investigation into Ahok’s blasphemy case, the police are pushing the North Jakarta District Court to move the location of Ahok’s trial for fear that it could attract protesters, including hard-line groups, potentially triggering security problems.

The court, however, has said that it may ignore the police’s recommendations.

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