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The Dangers of Fundamentalism 2007: Indonesia

It seems to be a fact of life wherever we travel in the world these days; the threat of danger from radical groups bent on the destruction of the western world. Sounds harsh I suppose, but, it is fact.

In Indonesia, the focus of the danger will undoubtedly arise from fundamentalist groups as Ary Hermawan wrote in an excellent article the other day.

Fundamentalism still major danger in 2007

The government failed to address a range of rights abuses related to religious fundamentalism last year and its inaction means sectarian violence will likely remain a threat to national development, a rights watchdog says.

In its annual human rights report, Imparsial said that in the past year the government did little to anticipate or respond to local bylaws that discriminated against women and militant groups that targeted religious minorities.

“It failed in part to understand the dangers posed by religious fundamentalism to human rights and democracy,” Imparsial executive director Rachlan Nashidik said. “It also underestimated (fundamentalism’s) revival,” he said.

The group recorded at least 14 major cases of rights violations triggered by religious intolerance in 2006.

Last March, two churches in Bogor, West Java, were forced to shut down by local residents, who alleged they were illegal. This action was officially endorsed by local authorities.

On Feb. 4, dozens of Ahmadiyah followers in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, were driven out of their homes after local villagers torched their houses. Police did nothing to protect the group. Ahmadiyah was later declared a heretical Islamic sect by the Indonesian Ulema Council.

In June, Jakarta spiritual leader Lia Eden, who claimed to have received revelations from the Archangel Gabriel, was sentenced to two years’ prison for blasphemy against Islam. In early January, a man in West Sulawesi was jailed for six months for whistling while performing his daily Islamic prayers.

Many local governments also passed sharia-inspired bylaws, which moderate Muslims and human rights activists have criticized for discriminating against Muslim women and those of other faiths.

Imparsial listed at least 30 local ordinances issued between 2001 and 2006 that were in violation of citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed civil rights.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the West Java city of Depok are drafting a repressive anti-vice bylaw, despite protests from rights groups and feminists, Rachland said.

“I don’t know why the Home Ministry doesn’t do anything to address this matter,” he said.

The police have refused to clamp down on the illegal violent actions of militants, while the Home Ministry has said it lacks the powers to control law-making in the regions, he said.

Despite this, the ministry has cooperated with the Justice and Human Rights Ministry to evaluate problematic bylaws and supervise the drafting of new ones.

Muslim scholar Ihsan Ali Fauzi of the Paramadina Foundation said religious violence would pose a major threat to the nation’s stable democracy, unless the government got tough on “hate speeches” delivered by hardline preachers.

“Similar laws have been applied in Western countries like the United States and Britain,” he said.

Ary Hermawan