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29 June 2010

Government inaction on hardliners questioned

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The Indonesian central government has been criticized for providing too much leeway for hardliners to grow, letting them push for sharia-based bylaws at the expense of the nation’s unity, legislators and activists said Monday, according to the Jakarta Post.

“We see it too often: the state apparatus bows down to the hardliners’ interest. This makes us question the current government’s role in managing this pluralistic country,” Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislator Eva Kusuma Sundari told a press conference on Monday.

Activists calling themselves the Pancasila Caucus criticized the government, which they said acted as if there was nothing worrisome about the increasing number of sharia-based laws.

Caucus member I Wayan Sudirta, a member of the Regional Representatives Council, said the government was facing a challenge in defending the country’s motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).

“Our fellow citizens in eastern Indonesia have repeatedly said they would do exactly the same to those who share different religions from them if the government fails to stop intimidation and violence using religion as a mask,” he said.

Some areas in eastern Indonesia, including East Nusa Tenggara and Papua, have predominantly non-Muslim populations.

Eva said sharia-based bylaws oppressed non-Muslim minorities.

“Bylaws that accommodate violence should also be seen as tools that hamper us from reaching a higher degree of civilization, just like South Africa under apartheid. I demand the government start taking action now, before it is too late,” she said.

On Sunday, members of Muslim hard-line groups gathered in Bekasi, West Java, to demand the regency and municipal administrations adopt sharia law. The groups also agreed to take action against “conversions to Christianity” in Bekasi by, among others, deploying surveillance teams at Bekasi mosques.

The event was the latest example of attempts to implement sharia in the country.

Yunahar Ilyas of Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Muslim organization, said there was no urgency to enact sharia law here since the government facilitated Muslims to implement their teachings in daily life.

“Not all Islamic teachings must be regulated by the government. Besides, we share the same values here,” he said.

The Bekasi branch of Muhammadiyah, however, agreed with the proposal to adopt sharia in Bekasi.

Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi and presidential spokesman Heru Lelono could not be reached for comment.

The Justice and Human Rights Ministry said there were 92 sharia-based bylaws throughout the country.

In some regions such as Tangerang, a bylaw on “public order” prohibits women from going out unchaperoned after certain hours in the evening.

In many regions, most of these bylaws require women to wear Arab clothing and some require the ability to recite the Koran as a prerequisite to become a civil servant.

In 2007, the National Commission on Violence against Women filed a judicial review against several bylaws with the Supreme Court. But the court upheld the bylaws, saying they only regulated “public order”.

Last year, the Court rejected a request filed by three Tangerang residents regarding the anti-prostitution bylaw, which they said discriminated against women.


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