Tag Archives: Indonesia

Indonesia Legislature Bans Racial Discrimination

Indonesia has long regarded itself not only as the largest Muslim nation in the world but as a society which respects ethnic and religious diversity. There have been several incidents during the past few years in which ethnic groups were subject to attack by Muslim fanatics, but, the majority of Indonesians believe in tolerance. The Indonesian House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that terms ethnic and racial discrimination as serious crimes. It was hoped the bill would end discrimination against minority groups. Chairman of the special committee which worked on the bill, Murdaya Poo, commented: “A man cannot choose to be born as part of a certain race or ethnic group, and therefore discrimination must cease to exist.

Hopefully, Indonesia can be a model for other Muslim nations which still have legal discrimination against members of non-Muslims. The legislature is debating whether imprisonment for racial prejudice should be the minimum sentence to anyone convicted of violating the law.

Indonesia-A Nation In Search Of Democracy

Booni Hargens, writing in the Jakarta Post, argues Indonesia does not have an historic sense of democracy and concern for the welfare of ordinary people because its elite stands apart from the lives of citizens. “There is still no democratic imagination among our elites. Democratic imagination refers to a set of capabilities to imagine the essence of basic principles like the common good, justice, deliberation and equality.” He believes leadership of his nation lacks vision and courage to fight for democracy in a country in which religious fundamentalists too frequently dominate the debate and stifle forces of independence. Hargens argues three factors will determine success in Indonesia-a free market, a civil society based on democratic principles and changes by the elite to become more active in the democratic process.

There is no question Indonesia is less impacted by militant violent Islamic forces than other Muslim nations such as Pakistan. Indonesia contains Christian groups who have freedom of religion, but even this is under attack from Muslim fundamentalists. Hargens is correct in calling for greater participation in government by moderate Muslim leaders who all too often allow fundamentalists to take the stage of claiming to speak for all Indonesians.

Indonesia Migrants Add To Divorce Rate

Indonesian officials in central Java are coming across evidence of a correlation between migrant workers and the divorce rate. The divorce rate in Banyumas regency appears to be directly proportional to the number of migrant workers in the region. Joso Isnuoso notes “Divorces are growing by the month, especially when wives return home from working overseas.” He noted it is not unusual for a wive to return home after working for several months thousands of miles away from home and family in a state of pregnancy.In one village here have been over 150 divorce cases since 2000.

A major factor in creating family tensions arises from pay checks. If the wive is away, the husband expects her to regularly send checks and vice versa for a wife. The lure of money is powerful in rural areas of Indonesia where most people live in poverty. But, the price of family disruption is probably one many will risk because the rewards far out shine the consequences.

Indonesian Women Fight For Rights

A coalition of Indonesian women groups is fighting against proposed government legislation which, ostensibly, would halt the spread of pornography, but which they regard as a subtle attack on women rights of expression. Rena Herdiyani, director of the women’s group, Kalanamitra, said, “the bill regulates something that shouldn’t be regulated. It would restrict women’s freedom of expression. It’s not that we are pro-pornography, but they (lawmakers) regard women as only objects, not subjects.” She believes the bill is so vague as to the definition as to what constitutes “pornography” that it could be used to silence the right of women to deal with issues pertaining to their lives and bodies. For example, dances or song lyrics could be classified as “pornographic.” Of course, who would be making the definition as to what constitutes pornography?

Democracy means the open expression of ideas. The prospect of a group of fundamentalist Muslim clerics deciding what constitutes pornography is frightening to say the least.

Indonesian Christians Under Attack By Muslim Fanatics

Hundreds of Christian theology students have been living in tents since a mob of angry Muslim neighbors stormed their campus last month wilding bamboo spears and hurling Molotov cocktails. Historically, Indonesia has always displayed a moderate and open respect for those who are not Muslims, but there are increasing signs of a change in that attitude due to the presence of an increasingly militant Muslim faction. The Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology has reluctantly agreed to shut down its campus in east Jakarta and relocate to a smaller building on the other side of town. A banner that was flown on the main street in the area said: “We the community of Kampung Pulo demand the campus be closed and dissolved.”

The government of President Susio Bambang Yudhoyono relies on the support of Islamic parties in Parliament which increases pressure not to take a strong stand in defense of religious freedom. Professor Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit priest who has lived in Indonesia for half a century commented: “People are still tolerant but there is a a growing suspicion among Muslims of others.” He said police have failed to prevent attacks on Christians and have forced closure of churches and nontraditional Muslim mosques which are disliked by militant Muslims. A spokesperson for the school, Manave, said: “We’re living in a country where there are m any religions but the government cannot prevent the actions of fundamentalist groups. The government cannot protect minorities.” Is the question whether the government “cannot protect” or is it “does not want to protect” minorities?

What Causes Islamophobia?

The Third International Conference of Islamic Scholars met in Indonesia to examine issues pertaining to what are causes of Islamophobia and what can be done to deal with this problem. The conference called on ulemas and Moslem Scholars to emphasize the importance of cooperation in building peace and preventing conflicts that are partially caused by the media exaggerating the importance of Muslim militants. Dr. Ameer Ali, who teaches at Murdoch University in Australia, said after 9/11 his nation became obsessed with fear of Muslims. Australian religious leaders responded to the campaign of fear by organizing interfaith dialogues which cut across all religions. However, he believes a major factor in the rise of Islamophobia is “the deliberate demonization of Islam and Muslims in the western media.”

The scholars believe an important factor in reducing anti-Muslim feeling is engaging in dialogues with leaders of the media in order to offer the public a more balanced view of what is happening in the Muslim world. For example, few in the media even know of the existence of the Conference of Islamic Scholars and their work for peace.

Are Letters To Editor Protected Under Press Freedom?

An interesting case has arisen in Indonesia over the issue as to whether a letter to the editor is protected under provisions of freedom of the press. The Indonesian Press Council wants clarification regarding what is the status of freedom of the press as it pertains to letters written to the editor about issues of concern to citizens. Four people wrote letters to the editor complaining about a company’s fraudulent behavior. The company sued for defamation of character under criminal law provisions. In April, 2008, one court found Pan Ester guilty of defamation while another court found him innocent on grounds his letter was covered by freedom of the press. A government official, Leo Batubara, noted: “It shows how law enforcers do not embrace the same legal standard when handling similar press-related cases.”

This is clearly an important issue about freedom of the press. Does a letter to the editor automatically fall under provisions of what newspapers are allowed to print? Should newspapers have disclaimers in their letter to the editor section? This is probably an are of freedom of the press that must be carefully examined.

Indonesian Terrorist Bombing Averted

Indonesian police were able to foil a planned terrorist attack on Western tourists in Sumatra after a planned attack by Islamist militants was called off at the last moment when they realized their attack would essentially result in the death of Muslims, not westerners. Ten men were arrested in the Sumatran resort town of Bukittinggi where they had already planted some explosives in a cafe when they became aware of who was in the cafe. Police said the men then decided to plant bombs in Jakarta but one of them informed on the others when he was picked up by the police.

A few years ago, over 200 western tourists were killed in Bali by such terrorists who seek to destabilize Indonesian by cutting off tourist revenues. The incident once again proves the importance of effective police work and the use of informants to thwart terrorism. Of course, one is left wondering why terrorists thought planting bombs in Jakarta was a lesser threat to Muslims.

Off With Their Heads, Says Indonesian Drug Leader

Indonesian National Police chief, General Satanto, chairman of the National Narcotics Agency(BNN) says execution of traffickers on death row should be speeded up because the only thing that will teach drug offenders of the folly of engaging in drugs is to be killed. Of course, if they are killed, they really can’t change their behavior.
General Satanto said: “Drug traffickers must be executed immediately as a warning. That is why the BNN is coordinating closely with the Attorney General’s office which is responsible for the executions.” According to the general, putting them in prison doesn’t do much good because all they do is transform a nice pleasant jail into a center of drugs. “International drug trafficking syndicates have been controlled from jails. Imprisonment has failed to stop drug cases.”

There are now 72 people on death row awaiting execution and only 3 drug traffickers have been killed. Drug cases rose from 17, 355 in 2006 to 22,630 in 2007. If the history of prisons and crime has any relevance to the general, there is absolutely no evidence that crime goes down if more are executed. Has he considered legalizing drugs or education as alternatives?

Indonesian Children Being Abandoned

Rising poverty, increasing fuel costs, and a belief their children need an education is forcing hundreds of thousands of Indonesian parents to abandon their children and have them placed under care of orphanages. The Save the Children Foundation estimates there are 500,000 children in Indonesia current in an orphanage despite the fact 90% of them have at least one living parent. In a recent survey of 36 of these homes for children, it was found once children get out of school, they spend their time cooking, cleaning, and caring for younger children. As Florence Martin of the Save the Children Foundation notes, the staff focuses on managing the children but “the children’s needs at the psychological level is not on the agenda.”

The Indonesian government pays private institutions to care for children and they are paid on the basis of numbers. This has resulted in fierce competition among these private institutions to get children into the homes. The government refuses to accept responsibility for ensuring children are under the care of trained staff who are both concerned about education and the emotional needs of children.