Religious Freedom

-Musdah Mulia-

Every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. All forms of intolerance, discrimination and incitement of hatred based on religion or belief shall be eliminated.
(Article 22 AHRD 2012)Observation conducted by ICRP (Indonesian Conference on Religion for Peace) during these past ten years on human rights conditions in Indonesia  have concluded that the aspect of religious freedom is neither strongly guaranteed nor protected. The proof lies in frequent occurrences of religious conflicts, violence, and violations against religious freedom. The authorities tend to let these take place, without any real effort to seriously and sistematically prevent them. There is also increasing intolerance on the part of the people which in turn result in religion-based discrimination and violence.Those  targeted by religion-based discrimination and violence violent acts are vulnerable and marginalized minority groups. They are consist of four groups: First those are believers of minority religions, namely Christians, Hindhus and Buddists, Secondly, those believers of religions and beliefs that are not acknowledged by the government such as Baha’i, Judaism, Sikh; Thirdly, those believers of indigenous religion such as the  Sunda Wiwitan, Parmalin, and Sapto Darmo; Fourthly, the minority groups in Islam like Syiah and Ahmadiyah.ICRP has recorded religion-based discriminations and violence that include: stigmatization as infidels and as those who have committed apostasy, and this has an extensive impact on their social lives. They may be ostracized from society, dismissed from their jobs, suspected of being criminals, are not promoted to higher positions, rejected as public officials, rejected as Civil Servants and other important jobs.The restriction against Ahmadiyah and Syiah believers to practice their religion by accuse them of wrongful practices of Islam. Based on that accusation, they are evicted from their homes and lands, even their homes were severely destructed, burnt down, and the worst of all, some of them were murdered. In some places, they became refugees, live as nomads with no certainty, especially their children. There are people who have been living that way for seven years (Ahmadiyah in Lombok), and almost two years (Syiah in Sampang). Ironically, the government (through the minister of religious affair) requested a dialog with them with the intention to “cure and turn them to believe in the right Islam in the right direction”. The question is, which is the “right Islam” and the “right direction” to the right Islam?What is even worse is that such discrimination is formalized in public policies so called PERDA, for instance: the Regulation that mandates female Muslim civil servants to wear jilbab. The obligation to wear jilbab for women in turn not only affects Muslim civil servants, but also non-Muslims.A non-Muslim female civil servant in Aceh feels compelled to wear the jilbab. Why? She explains: before wearing the jilbab, all the work that I do in the office is always considered faulty, yet I had done my best. Now, after I have donned the jilbab, all the faulty work that I have done seem to have been overlooked because of my jilbab.However, that is not the end of the story. Now, with a number of non-Muslim women wearing jilbabs, they are again under suspicion, some are even forced to take off their veils while being shouted at: why are you wearing jilbab? This condition also witness that the violations against religious freedom will trigger or the result of violation of other rights. This is the case how freedom of religion is interlinked with the guarantee of freedom of expression.The other regulation is obligating students and couples who plan to get married to be able to recite and write Quranic text; the regulation on the ability to recite and write Quranic text as a prerequisite for job promotions in public offices; the regulation that obligates people to recite the Qur’an at Magrhrib; the regulation on the obligatory Solemn Friday (Jum’at Khusyuk) on Fridays between 11 am to 1 pm where public and private vehicles are forbidden from passing in front of mosques during Friday Prayers; the regulation regarding the obligation to pay the zakat (alms) for civil servants in government institutions; and in Riau there is regulation for civil servants to pray Zuhur  in Masjid Agung and to pray Ashar in Masjid Jami (Riau).In the mean time, there are also a number of local regulations related to the Islamic Syaria in Aceh, such as the Qanun Jinayah (punishment by stoning) and so on; the Regulation Against Prostitution in Jombang; the Bylaw for Qur’an education is South Kalimantan; the bylaw on Zakat Management in Batam, Mamuju, and Palembang.Compelling people to conduct obligatory religious rituals may be perceived at a glance as something good and positive; many are fooled in this instance. In reality, implementation of all those obligations and compulsions or restrictions and constraints will always end in neglecting, and even in emasculating human rights, both as citizens as well as free human being.

In essence, we all know that religious teachings will only be meaningful for human beings when they are conducted based on a deep sense of consciousness. That conscious effort comes from love and obedience to God as well as from a sense of responsibility as a devout believer, without having to be forced by the government.

This is why there is a serious need to instill religious values through education in the widest sense of the word, both in the family as well as in society. Instilling those religious values can create humans with a strong sense of spirituality and morality. The solution lies in religious education that emphasizes on moral values, not religious education with ritualistic and symbolic aspects or one that only focuses on the legal and formal aspects.

Actors of religion-based discrimination

The actors or perpetrators of human rights violations come from elements of the state, authorities and society. The various data on religion-based violence issued by independent groups shows that state institutions guilty of the most violations are the police. Next come the Regents or Mayors, District Heads, the Civil Service Police Unit, the Court, the Ministry of Religous Affairs, the Army, and other institutions including the President.

Actors from among the public are illustrated in the results of a research by the Setara Institute (2010) on 1.200 respondents. The survey shows a trend in increased perception of anti-tolerance. The survey which was aimed at respondents in Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi (Jabodetabek) states that (49,5 percent) respondents do not agree to houses of worship for people of different faiths. While the other (45 percent) are able to accept the presence of houses of worship of other faiths, and the remaining respondents gave no answers.

In 2012, a survey by Denny JA Foundation and the LSI Community showed that the trend of intolerance among Indonesians keeps increasing. The people feel more and more uncomfortable with the presence of others (of different identities, religion, and even of other sects within the same religion as theirs) in their surroundings. The survey shows that around (67,8%) object to being neighbors with people of different faith and (61,2%) object to being neighbors with the Syiah people.

While among those with a higher education background (High School and above), (32,2%) felt uncomfortable being neighbors with those of a different faith, and (38,8%) object to having the Syiah as neighbors. Most of the public who objected to living adjacent to those of different identities usually come from a lower education background (High School and below), and also earn lower income.

In 2013, ICRP recorded that violent and discriminative acts conducted by certain religious groups are on the rise. In addition, a survey conducted by the LaKIP (the Institute on Islam and Peace) also mentions that there is a most fundamental problem facing this nation at the cultural level, which is increasing radical and anti-tolerance perceptions. What is even more fatal is that such intolerance has is developing in classrooms of formal education.

This is evidenced by the fact that out of 993 General Junior and High School students surveyed, around (48,9 percent) stated that they agreed or strongly agreed with violence in the name of religion and morality. The rest, (51,1 percent) stated that they did not really agree or did not agree at all. Among the 590 religious teachers who were respondents, (28,2 percent) stated that they agreed or strongly agreed with violence in the name of religion.


How to eradicate discrimination

To eradicate all form of discrimination against religious freedom require a number of prerequisites, which include: recognition of and respect towards pluralism; economic stability; a government with strong legitimacy; the establishment of a society group with a progressive, positive and democratic outlook and the establishment of religious interpretation whics is humanistic and compatible with the principle of human rights.

On the other hand, the public should be more aware that religious freedom is the most fundamental human rights. It is not our place to judge other people’s faith; this is what we must realize. In the context of religion and faith, the task of the authorities is to facilitate the people so that all of them, without exception and discrimination, are able to carry out their religious teachings peacefully, safely, comfortably, and also responsibly.

The government must remain neutral and fair towards all religious groups, without partiality towards the majority and neglecting the rights of the minority. Government authorities must protect devotees of all religions from all forms of discrimination and violence, and also make sure that there are no groups conducting anarchic acts towards other groups. Because in a democratic state, all people, all believers of religion and faiths have equal rights and that right is clearly guaranteed in the constitution.