Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Some Unwanted Advice

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant - Karl Popper

Its becoming very difficult to reconcile the Indonesians I know and the ones I see on TV or read about in the paper. The latest attacks on the Ahmadiyah community by a mob having more in common with orcs than humanity have shown that the government really does not seem to have a plan on how to deal with an ongoing problem of incitement in the community by radical groups.

The problem is those pesky Ahmadiyah keep wanting to have their own unique beliefs. This goes down badly with the mainstream Muslim establishment who is apparently so insecure in their own beliefs that they see this tiny offshoot sect as a threat to the souls of the nation. The Government in its role as the arbiter of justice has proposed a host of  bizarre solutions which I would like to consider.

1) Expel the Ahmadiyah.

Ghettoizing the Ahmadiyah was recently suggested by the Government of Lombok. The Ahmadiyah of Lombok have been living a a relocation camp since 2006, when they were burned out of their homes by a vicious mob.  Despite the whole event being captured on TV no charges were ever laid in connection to these events. As a solution it was suggested that removing the community to an isolated location so that their neighbors could not be influenced by their deviant acts. I suppose one of those prison islands could be renamed Pulau Ahamdiyah and special uniforms could be designed so as to conveniently discern Amamdiyah followers from the mainstream. Of course this kind of thing hasn't happened since the Nazi's began rounding up Jews Gypsies and homosexuals but who knows? If nothing else it would earn the current president a special place in Hell alongside Omar Bashir, Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosovic but hey if this is the legacy you are hoping for Mr. President, a study of the actions of these dictators would certainly provide some lessons and insight. It won't do much for your UN aspirations though.

2) Initiate a pogrom.

 This method seems to favored by the MUI (majelis ulama indonesia) and their faithful right hand the FPI(Islamic Defenders Front). The Indonesian Constitution, never a strong document to begin with, has been systematically eroded by a combination of inflammatory fatwas, sharia style bylaws, and mostly by the lawless actions by thugs hiding behind the fig  leaf of ensuring religious harmony. Based on their recent actions and statements it seems to me that the religious harmony that these groups are referring to is the peace of the grave for religious minorities. Mr. President please refer to the above-mentioned dictators for advice on how to proceed. Again, this sort of thing is no longer in fashion but if this is how you wish to present the image of Indonesian tolerance to the world, pray continue.

3) Amend the constitution.

Perhaps it might be better to obtain a legal backing before proceeding with plans 1 or 2 by amending the constitution so as to declare the country an Islamic state. This plan would certainly be welcomed  a number of Islamic-based political parties that the government has been pandering to for the last several years.This plan would also be opposed by the small but significant minorities that make up the bulk of the eastern islands of this country. They might see the declaration of Indonesia as an Islamic state the ultimate betrayal of the 1945 revolution. The entire nation could conceivably be fractured into several smaller states, a situation that would benefit nobody. There are lessons to be learned from the Balkans, the Sudan, and Somalia. Indonesians should take heed.

4) Do Nothing.

This seems to be the modus operendi of the Yudhyono administration. Even the president must realise by now that, by pandering to thugs they will only become emboldened to greater and more outrageous acts of violence. Pretending that there is not a problem will not make it go away. What doing nothing will do is emasculate the position of the President of the Unitary State of Indonesia. When people lack leadership and discipline then tend to look to their own interests first. Attacks upon minorities will continue to occur so long as nobody is held accountable. How many people have to die before the government realises that maintaining the status quo is just not going to work in the long term?

5) Banning the Ahmadiyah.

This is the solution as suggested by the Minister of religion. Now the funny thing about banning a religion, it almost almost always has the opposite effect. Muslims should consider their own history when talking about religious bans. Were they not not banned from Mecca for a time? How well did that work? The Catholic church spent hundreds of years being banned by the Romans. When their opportunity came they spent hundreds of years years in counter-reformation efforts against the likes of Lutherans, Methodists, Protestants, Anglicans. Where did it get them in the long run? Ideas are difficult to kill. And who is to say which one is correct? I'm sure that any self-respecting Muslim would be very indignant if it was suggested that their religion was deviant and heretical - I fail to see how they would think that the Ahmadiyahs would feel any less indignant for having their religion considered as such.

6) Doing the right thing.

 This is the least popular option as will involve politicians and the public getting off the fence and actually doing something to promote tolerance as opposed to exaceberating differences. So what is the right thing? Well why not start with harshly punishing those who promote religious violence? Make an example of one or two - the third one may think twice before acting.  Secondly eliminate laws or decrees that get used to justify religious violence such as the ridiculous Joint Ministerial decree on Ahmadiyah as well as the Joint decree on houses of worship. You can't seriously call yourself a multicultural and tolerant society with laws like these on the books. If you want to restrict the growth of churches, mosques, temples and the like why not enforce things like seating capacity, operating hours, noise levels and available parking. Thirdly protect the integrity and sanctity of the courts. People should have the right to protest in front of the courthouse. Those rights do not extend to threatening the magistrates or burning down the courthouse if the decision does not suit the mob. Giving the bigots and haters free reign to hack and burn is a tried and true way to conflict.

Indonesians need to decide what form of country they want. Continuing in this lawless manner will only hurt them at home, and hurt their reputations abroad.


H. Nizam said...

Hi PJ,

Attacks on the Ahmadiyah in Pandeglang, and Christians in Temanggung can only happen because the president and his government refused to take serious actions against barbaric groups like FPI etc. who have repeatedly violated the laws.

After listening to explanations given by government officials and the police, I doubt that such barbaric actions would not happen again in the future.
Especially that political parties incl. the president's, are all preparing for the 2014 election, therefore trying everything they can to be popular among majority Muslims.

But please understand that the present MUI, and groups like FPI etc. DO NOT represent Muslims in Indonesia who are mostly MODERATES.

Those groups could only exist and grew because some powerful people have supported and used them for their own interest.

The best way to stop the violence would be to force the government to disband such groups and seriously prosecute their men in the court of law.

pj said...

Hi Harry

I appreciate your serious and levelheaded response. In truth
it was painfull to write this post. Then again watching that video was very very difficult. The level of hate displayed was truly horrific.

I am fully aware that the actions of the FPI do not represent the views of the Indonesian Muslim community. Now given that why is it so difficult to take action against these groups both in law and deed? Don't you thick that its a bit contradictory that government supported thuggery is being done to impress muslims if the majority of muslims are against this sort of behavior?

I quite agree with your solutions. The only question is when and how?



colson said...

I share your disbelief: Indonesians I know resemble in no way the fanatic narrow minded bastards who manage to tarnish Indonesia's image of tolerance.

Of course violence is part of all cultures and all societies are entitled to it's 5% of idiots. But this development is really worrying. Especially since your summary of 'solutions' is not just ironic but has a high reality value too - unfortunately.

I agree with Harry's comment's last paragraph. But I'm afraid that the core problem is to be found there ...

pj said...

Hi Colson

Most of my solutions have been at some time propounded by the politicians and religious leaders of this country. It was not difficult to find supporting links to anything I'm saying here.

Harry presents the way forward. It will take some brave politicians to push it through. The current lot seem more interested in Komodos and Ariel. Such are the ways of politics.

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