A sweet note of religious harmony in Indonesia

A court in the world’s most populous Muslim country bans religious discrimination by the government, creating a legal beacon for the region and Islamic world.

Reuters
A Muslim student holds a book in a class at a school in Cikawao village of Majalaya, West Java province, Indonesia,

In Myanmar (Burma), the Muslim minority is on the run from extremists in the Buddhist majority. In nearby Malaysia, some in the Muslim majority refuse to do business with the Hindu minority. In the Philippines, Islamic terrorists target the Christian majority with bombs and bullets.

Amid such religious tensions in Southeast Asia, it is worth noting that the Constitutional Court of Indonesia issued a ruling Nov. 7 that upholds religious freedom. It ordered the government to no longer discriminate against people whose faith is not one of the six religions that have been officially recognized since 1965 (Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism). Instead, officials must ensure equality before the law regardless of a person’s faith and honor the Constitution’s guarantee of “freedom of religion and worship.”

The ruling serves not only as a legal beacon for one corner of Asia but also for much of the Islamic world. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation with close to 90 percent of its 260 million people identifying as Muslim. While it has a mixed record of tolerance toward non-Muslims, it is widely admired among many in the Middle East as a model for harmony between different religions.

The country’s reputation, however, has lately been challenged by a rise in groups seeking a nondemocratic caliphate and by a number of terrorist attacks committed by Islamic militants since 2000. In May, a recent former governor of the capital region was jailed on charges of blasphemy against Islam. And in many local areas, the rights of religious minorities are restricted.

The high court’s ruling is one step toward containing such religious intolerance. In September, President Joko Widodo called on universities to promote the official ideology of secular rule. He appointed a special envoy for interfaith dialogue and cooperation. And, in a controversial move, the government passed a law that outlaws any civil organization that violates or threatens Indonesia’s pluralist tradition. One group, Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia, has already been banned.

“Moderate Muslims are too quiet. We have to become radical moderates,” said Abdul Mu’ti, secretary-general of the Muslim reformist group Muhammadiyah, at a recent conference.

A few other Muslim-majority countries, such as Tunisia, have notched some success in religious tolerance. Indonesia bears watching as it puts its faith in equality into equality between faiths.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A sweet note of religious harmony in Indonesia
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2017/1108/A-sweet-note-of-religious-harmony-in-Indonesia
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe