March 2011


Doctrine divides, Action unites

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The Pakistanization of Indonesia?

Moh Yasir Alim

The anti-Ahmadiyyah decrees in Pandeglang in West Java and most recently in East Java have incited fears among many hearts that the country is heading towards “Pakistanization.”

Pakistan is “a laboratory of abuse in the name of religion,” and Pakistan’s path of intense religious violence began with an anti-Ahmadiyyah ordinance.

In 1984, Pakistan’s president, Gen. Muhammad Zia ul Haq, adopted Ordinance XX to criminalize the activities of Ahmadiyyah followers. Pakistan argued that banning the Ahmadiyyah or declaring the Ahmadiyyah as non-Muslims would eliminate violence against them and would stabilize the country. The argument, now commonly used by Islamic hardliners and certain state officials in Indonesia, is nonsense, however.

The reality in Pakistan demonstrates this view. A country built upon egalitarian values, Pakistan is now a nation devastated by religious vigilantes; a land suffocated by the rancid smell of blood; a place where the Ahmadiyyah, Islamic sects and religious minorities are persecuted; a country where bombings take place every day, weakening the power of the nation to build.

In its current state, Pakistan is a failed state. Human Rights Watch notes that after the Ordinance XX declared Ahmadiyyah followers as non-Muslims in 1984 the persecution of the Ahmadiyyah significantly increased.

Like in Pakistan, the decrees in West Java and East Java will criminalize the religious activities of the Ahmadiyyah and will embolden religious extremists to further persecute them. The ordinances seem to be a license to kill. As ideas never die, violence continues.

The experience of Pakistan demonstrates that such a cruel regulation bolsters religious vigilantism and weakens the State’s commitment to its Constitution, the fundamental values upon which the nation was built.

The result is frightening. A country built upon egalitarian values, like Pakistan, can shift into a country of religious violence. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, was an ardent democrat, and he founded Pakistan on consensual and pluralistic grounds and a belief that general supremacy would prevail rather than that of Islam per se. What is left of these ideals?

Pakistan’s experience indicates that following the issuance of these regulations the violence against the Ahmadiyyah will manifest itself in many ways in Indonesia: murder before the police; mosque attacks; expulsions of Ahmadis from many state universities; more widespread violence; exclusion of Ahmadis from voting; arson attacks on their homes, businesses and mosques; desecration of their graves; and other forms of violence.

Ordinance XX, in fact, not only criminalizes “the religious activities” of the Ahmadiyyah but also the “everyday life” of Ahmadiyyah followers.

Subsequently, the effects of these religious regulations will go beyond the Ahmadiyyah followers: the vigilantes will react against other Islamic groups and government officials that they think are different or not in line with their agendas.

For example, the governor of Pakistan’s state of Punjab, a person with a moderate voice—Salman Taseer—was killed early this year because he criticized the country’s blasphemy law which he regarded as a “black rule” inconsistent with the Constitution of Pakistan.

We fear that Indonesia could fall into the same spiral of violent religious intolerance. Indonesia is a diverse nation, which is also reflected in the diversity of its Islamic religious practices.

There are, for example, many religious practices considered as bid’ah (innovation) that are widely practiced by Indonesian Muslims. After the Ahmadiyyah, it is only a matter of time before these homeland religious practices will be persecuted.

What are the other possible consequences? As the State fails to protect its citizens, many groups in society will create their own paramilitary armies to protect themselves. We can predict the consequences of such a scenario.

Therefore, not only are the ordinances in West and East Java a blatant violation of international human rights law, the Constitution and the dreams of our founding fathers, but they will threaten our national security and the existence of the nation. In the long term, the decrees will surely strengthen religious vigilantes and weaken the power of the State. There will be more religious and political insecurity.

The decrees are also against the fundamental principles of Islam (adh-dhoruriyyatul khomsah): hifdhu ad-din (to protect the freedom of faith), hifd an-nafs (to protect life), hifdh al-aql (to protect freedom of expression), hifd an-nasb (to protect the sustainability of human beings) and hifd al-mal (to protect the rights of property).

For religious and security reasons, the central government, particularly the Home Ministry, should evaluate these regional ordinances to stop the march of this “Pakistanization” of Indonesia.

Diversity remains the most valuable value that state leaders at any level can espouse. The central government should ensure that state apparatuses at all levels do not violate the nation’s Constitution and should embody a consciousness of diversity. It is the vein of modern Indonesia and the reason of our existence.

Indonesia has its own cultural characteristics and should not follow the dangerous path of Pakistan. History tells us that a country built upon an egalitarian vision can become a hotbed of religious violence when the consciousness of diversity is not nurtured and when its officials lose sight of its founding fathers’ ideals.

The United Nations Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities has called on the Commission on Human Rights to pressure the government of Pakistan to repeal Ordinance XX. It is ironic that Indonesia then adopts such a regulation.

Like the case of Pakistan, religious clerics are also involved in the mobilization of anti-Ahmadiyyah laws. To those clerics, I invite them to renew our faith in God, the Merciful (rahman) and the Compassionate (rahim). The clerics need to embody these two attributes of God, or else they will be spiritually impoverished.

The deepest moral crises take place when religious leaders do not embody rahman rahim in themselves or when they begin to see other people merely from their outer dress, not from their inner humanity. When these two characteristics are absent, the blessings of God will leave us.

* The writer is a lecturer at Universitas Negeri Semarang (UNNES, or Semarang State University) and a former coordinator of Majelis Kataman Quran Canberra Australia. This article was first published in the Jakarta Post on March 7, 2011.