Fears grow over app to police minorities
Karina M. Tehusijarana
The Jakarta Post
The launch of a mobile application that allows members of the public to report beliefs they consider to be misguided or heretical has sparked fears that it could lead to increased persecution of minority groups in the country.
The app, called Smart Pakem (monitoring religious beliefs), was launched by the Jakarta Prosecutors Office (Kejati) and includes features such as a list of forbidden beliefs and banned mass organizations, a directory of fatwas issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and a form to report complaints or information about religious beliefs or sects.
“If there are reports from the public, we can immediately act on them. Before, people needed to write a letter, which was troublesome. Through this application, we will immediately know where the reports come from,” Kejati Jakarta assistant for intelligence matters Yulianto said at the app’s launch on Thursday as quoted by kompas.com.
National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) commissioner Choirul Anam said the app could potentially lead to the violation of religious freedom.
“[The app] can result in persecution, violence and criminalization,” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday. “It is contradictory to the government’s desire to create a culture of mutual respect and tolerance, which is why I have asked the government and the attorney general to take it down.”
Smart Pakem (monitoring religious beliefs) was launched by the Jakarta Prosecutors Office (Kejati) and includes features such as a list of forbidden beliefs and banned mass organizations, a directory of fatwas issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and a form to report complaints or information about religious beliefs or sects. (JP/File)
Setara Institute researcher Halili Hasan echoed Choirul’s sentiments, saying the app further marginalized followers of minority religious beliefs, especially those who adhered to new or indigenous faiths.
“It is not up to the public to decide whether a belief is misguided or not,” he told the Post. “The app just serves to widen divisions in communities and legitimizes people who believe it’s okay to persecute groups that are outside of the mainstream.”
Indonesia has been widely criticized for its failure to protect its minorities, particularly followers of the smaller Islamic denominations considered heretical, such as Ahmadiyah and hundreds of indigenous faiths.
“The launch of the application will make the public more distrustful of one another, increase the potential for horizontal conflict and damage the dialogue about differing religious beliefs that has already started in the community,” Ahmadiyah Indonesia Congregation (JAI) spokesperson Yendra Budiana said.
Attorney General’s Office (AGO) spokesperson Mukri acknowledged that some might find fault with the app but said it was intended to help educate and inform the public about heretical and banned groups.
“You have to understand the philosophy behind the creation of this app. It is meant to educate the public and it is within the AGO’s authority.
“We want to create an inventory to make it easier for the public to check whether a group is banned or not,” Mukri said.
“Also, if someone reports a group through the app, it doesn’t mean that it will be destroyed immediately. It just helps the AGO to investigate further.”
As of Monday morning, the app is still available on the Google Play Store.
A 2004 law gives the AGO the authority to “conduct oversight over religious beliefs that can endanger the community and the country”.
A 2015 regulation further specifies that the AGO can form central, provincial and municipal Pakem teams that are authorized to analyze reports about indigenous faiths and other religious beliefs as well as judge the impact that those faiths have on public order and peace.
In recent months, Pakem teams have been formed in Enrekang, South Sulawesi, Brebes, East Java, and Pematang Siantar, North Sumatra, among other places.
Choirul said the AGO’s role in overseeing religious beliefs should be abolished.
“If the AGO wants to create a peaceful climate, it should not criminalize differences in beliefs and respect the right to be different,” he added.
Halili agreed, saying judging a religious belief or sect was outside the government’s domain.
“What is so wrong about people seeking spirituality in their own way? Pakem teams result in majoritarianism, where the many decide on what is good for the few,” he said.
Mukri said he respected the right of people to criticize the teams, adding that they remained within the AGO’s authority. “We are only applying the authority that is given to us by the law.”
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Nov. 26, 2018, with the title "Fears grow over app to police minorities".
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