The Pakistanization of
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
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
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
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.