Indonesia Freedom Of Religion In Danger

Indonesia is not only the world’s largest Muslim country, but, historically it has offered religious tolerance to all people in the nation. However, the past year has witnessed the growth in power of Islamic fundamentalism and refusal on the part of government to intervene in order to protect the rights of religious minorities. Pramono Tantowi, director of the Center of Religious and Civilization Studies, told a forum that banning the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect was simply another symptom of the power of fundamentalists to impose their will in Indonesia and close down groups it deemed to be heretical in nature. He also noted, “the issue of fundamentalism has been exploited by political parties not only religious-based ones, but also nationalist ones, to woo voters ahead of the 2009 elections.”

Many university Muslim scholars are concerned their nation is slipping into a more fundamentalist approach to religion which threatens not only the rights of moderate Muslims, but Christians as well. There is already evidence of this shift in the installation of Sharia based laws in several Indonesian provinces including laws that criminalize women who go out at night without a male escort.