Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is Indonesia becoming less tolerant?

By Karishma Vaswani
BBC News, Jakarta

Indonesian account manager Putri Nuraini, 28, is devastated. She had been praying that US pop star Lady Gaga's show would go ahead as planned.

But on Sunday, the performer's management team called off the show, citing security concerns after hardline Islamic groups threatened to cause "chaos" if she entered the country.

Putri says she does not understand why Islamic groups are so against Lady Gaga.

"I'm a Muslim myself - but I don't get what their point is," she says heatedly. "It just doesn't make sense. Is Lady Gaga going to make love on the stage? No, she's going to perform. It's ridiculous."

But her sentiments are not shared by Effie and her nine-year-old son, Ade.

At an anti-Lady Gaga rally organised by conservative Islamic groups, little Ade was busy carting around a poster almost as big as his body with the words Reject the Devil Lady Gaga emblazoned on it.

"I've been bringing him to these sorts of protests since he was in my womb," his proud mother said. "It is good for him as a young Muslim to stand up for his faith."

I asked her why she was so incensed by a pop star - if she didn't like the music, then surely she didn't have to go to the concert? Why not let other Indonesians enjoy the event?

"Everyone always says Indonesian Muslims are so tolerant," the young mother said firmly. "We are, but we also don't want to be stepped on all the time. We have to stand up for Islam."

'Paltry sentences'

The Lady Gaga fiasco is just the latest in a series of incidents that observers say shows a rising trend of religious intolerance in Indonesia.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation but it is also secular.

It has a long tradition of religious tolerance enshrined in its constitution and has been held up by the West as a democratic blueprint for other Muslim countries in the Middle East.

But recently small groups of Islamic hardliners have become increasingly vocal in Indonesia - and there are concerns that the government is not doing enough to stop them.

The fear is that Indonesia is slowly sliding down the tolerance tables, and that the hardliners are getting the upper hand.

That is what Irshad Manji, a Muslim reformist and a feminist, believes.

She and her team were attacked by Islamic hardline groups while they were on a book tour of her newest book, Allah, Liberty and Love, in Indonesia. One of her colleagues ended up in hospital with an arm injury.

"They [the Islamic hardliners] arrived with helmets and masks hiding their faces, swashbuckling with iron rods and batons," Irshad said. "They not only trashed property but also sent several people to hospital, my colleague among them."

"We didn't receive any help from the authorities," she continued, visibly incensed. "Many Indonesians have told me they feel they can't report intimidation and thuggery because no one is going to do anything about it at the highest level.

"If they do report it, then they'll be on the receiving end of the violence. If they don't - then the violence continues. So frankly, what is supposed to be a pluralistic state is going in the direction of Pakistan - rather than in the direction of real democracy."

Intolerance unchecked

It is a worry many observers of Indonesian politics share.

"In August 2011, three churches were burned in Sumatra," wrote Andreas Harsono of the New York-based Human Rights Watch in a recent editorial entitled No Model for Muslim Democracy in the New York Times.

"No one was charged for that. In the deadliest attack last February, three Ahmedis men were killed. A court eventually prosecuted 12 militants for the crime - but handed down paltry sentences of only four to six months."

Human rights groups fear religious intolerance in Indonesia is going unchecked.

"There's now a religious intolerance case almost every day in Indonesia," Bonar Naipospos, a researcher with the Setara Institute, said.

"There's been a marked increase in cases over the last decade. The government doesn't do anything about it because it is worried about losing the Muslim vote. Even though the majority of Indonesian Muslims are moderate - they are the silent majority. If we don't fix this we could go from being a moderate country to one dominated by extremists."

But the Indonesian government rejects this criticism.

In an interview with the BBC, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa defended his government's position vehemently.

"One such incident is one too many," he told me. "But the overwhelming situation is not what you have described. Indonesia is now a very democratic and open society... We remain strongly committed to the promotion of religious tolerance."

"And on the kind of incidents that you have stated - I will be categorical and clear - these kinds of actions have no place whatsoever. We condemn it totally and completely."

But critics say this verbal condemnation does not go far enough.

Indonesia was founded on a pluralistic philosophy - the national motto of the country is Unity in Diversity.

But inaction by the government means this country - once a beacon of tolerance in the region - runs the risk of losing that reputation and in the process damaging the very foundations it was built on.

Kursus Jurnalisme Sastrawi

Angkatan XX
Jakarta, 2 – 14 Juli 2012

Hari ini hampir tak ada warga yang mendapatkan breaking news dari suratkabar. Mereka mendapatkannya dari televisi, radio, sms, telepon atau internet. Tantangannya, bagaimana cara menulis panjang?

Inilah pentingnya The New Journalism. Ia mengawinkan disiplin keras jurnalisme dengan daya pikat sastra. Ibarat novel tapi faktual. Gerakan ini dimunculkan Tom Wolfe pada 1973 di New York.

Pantau mulai menawarkan genre ini tahun 2001 bersama duet Janet Steele dan Andreas Harsono. Ia diadakan dua minggu, setiap Senin, Rabu dan Jumat. Kini angkatan XX. Peserta maksimal 16 orang. Setiap sesi 90-menit diformat serius namun santai. Peserta bisa berdiskusi langsung.

Peserta biasanya datang dari berbagai kota, dari Banda Aceh hingga Jayapura, dari Pontianak hingga Kuching, dari Ende hingga Kupang. Alumninya, terus bermunculan. Ada yang menulis buku. Ada yang jadi pemimpin redaksi. Ada yang sekolah lanjut.


Janet Steele -- Profesor dari George Washington University, spesialisasi sejarah media, mengajar mata kuliah narrative journalism. Menulis buku The Sun Shines for All: Journalism and Ideology in the Life of Charles A. Dana dan Wars Within: The Story of Tempo, an Independent Magazine in Soeharto’s Indonesia. Juga menulis tentang jurnalisme di Timor Leste dan Malaysia.

Andreas Harsono -- Wartawan Yayasan Pantau, anggota International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, mendapatkan Nieman Fellowship di Universitas Harvard. Menyunting buku Jurnalisme Sastrawi: Antologi Liputan Mendalam dan Memikat dan menulis antologi 'Agama' Saya Adalah Jurnalisme.

Peserta adalah wartawan, atau orang yang biasa menulis untuk media maupun blog. Calon peserta diharapkan mengirim biodata dan contoh tulisan agar pengampu mengetahui tulisan peserta lebih awal.

Biaya Rp 3 juta termasuk buku dan materi kursus, sertifikat, coffe break dan makan siang.

Informasi hubungi
Siti Nurrofiqoh
Yayasan Pantau
Jl. Raya Kebayoran Lama 18-CD
Jakarta 12220
Tel. 021 7221031
Email siti_pantau@yahoo.com
Mobile +62 813 82460455

Silabus Kursus Jurnalisme Sastrawi XII
Cerita Oryza Ardyansyah soal Kursus Pantau

Monday, May 21, 2012

Indonesia Is No Model for Muslim Democracy

New York Times

IT is fashionable these days for Western leaders to praise Indonesia as a model Muslim democracy. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has declared, “If you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia.” And last month Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, lauded Indonesia for showing that “religion and democracy need not be in conflict.”

Tell that to Asia Lumbantoruan, a Christian elder whose congregation outside Jakarta has recently had two of its partially built churches burned down by Islamist militants. He was stabbed by these extremists while defending a third site from attack in September 2010.

This week in Geneva, the United Nations is reviewing Indonesia’s human rights record. It should call on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to crack down on extremists and protect minorities. While Indonesia has made great strides in consolidating a stable, democratic government after five decades of authoritarian rule, the country is by no means a bastion of tolerance. The rights of religious and ethnic minorities are routinely trampled. While Indonesia’s Constitution protects freedom of religion, regulations against blasphemy and proselytizing are routinely used to prosecute atheists, Bahais, Christians, Shiites, Sufis and members of the Ahmadiyya faith — a Muslim sect declared to be deviant in many Islamic countries. By 2010, Indonesia had over 150 religiously motivated regulations restricting minorities’ rights.

In 2006, Mr. Yudhoyono, in a new decree on “religious harmony,” tightened criteria for building a house of worship. The decree is enforced only on religious minorities — often when Islamists pressure local officials not to authorize the construction of Christian churches or to harass and intimidate those worshiping in “illegal” churches, which lack official registration. More than 400 such churches have been closed since Mr. Yudhoyono took office in 2004.

Although the government has cracked down on Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al Qaeda affiliate that has bombed hotels, bars and embassies, it has not intervened to stop other Islamist militants who regularly commit less publicized crimes against religious minorities. Mr. Yudhoyono’s government is reluctant to take them on because it rules Indonesia in a coalition with intolerant Islamist political parties.

Mr. Yudhoyono is not simply turning a blind eye; he has actively courted conservative Islamist elements and relies on them to maintain his majority in Parliament, even granting them key cabinet positions. These appointments send a message to Indonesia’s population and embolden Islamist extremists to use violence against minorities.

In August 2011, for example, Muslim militants burned down three Christian churches on Sumatra. No one was charged and officials have prevented the congregations from rebuilding their churches. And on the outskirts of Jakarta, two municipalities have refused to obey Supreme Court orders to reopen two sealed churches; Mr. Yudhoyono claimed he had no authority to intervene.

Christians are not the only targets. In June 2008, the Yudhoyono administration issued a decree requiring the Ahmadiyya sect to “stop spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam,” including its fundamental belief that there was a prophet after Muhammad. The government said the decree was necessary to prevent violence against the sect. But provincial and local governments used the decree to write even stricter regulations. Muslim militants, who consider the Ahmadiyya heretics, then forcibly shut down more than 30 Ahmadiyya mosques.

In the deadliest attack, in western Java in February 2011, three Ahmadiyya men were killed. A cameraman recorded the violence, and versions of it were posted on YouTube. An Indonesian court eventually prosecuted 12 militants for the crime, but handed down paltry sentences of only four to six months. Mr. Yudhoyono has also failed to protect ethnic minorities who have peacefully called for independence in the country’s eastern regions of Papua and the Molucca Islands. During demonstrations in Papua on May 1, one protester was killed and 13 were arrested. And last October, the government brutally suppressed the Papuan People’s Congress, beating dozens and killing three people. While protesters were jailed and charged with treason, the police chief in charge of security that day was promoted.

Almost 100 people remain in prison for peacefully protesting. Dozens are ill, but the government has denied them proper treatment, claiming it lacks the money. Even the Suharto dictatorship allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit political prisoners, yet the Yudhoyono government has banned the I.C.R.C. from working in Papua.

Instead of praising Indonesia, nations that support tolerance and free speech should publicly demand that Indonesia respect religious freedom, release political prisoners and lift restrictions on media and human rights groups in Papua.

Mr. Yudhoyono needs to take charge of this situation by revoking discriminatory regulations, demanding that his coalition partners respect the religious freedom of all minorities in word and in deed, and enforcing the constitutional protection of freedom of worship. He must also make it crystal clear that Islamist hard-liners who commit or incite violence and the police who fail to protect the victims will be punished. Only then will Indonesia be deserving of Mr. Cameron and Mrs. Clinton’s praise.

Andreas Harsono is a researcher for the Asia division at Human Rights Watch.