Category Archives: religion

The story of a sociologist who went undercover inside NII

Dewi Triana found herself sitting cross-legged in a small room listening to sermons denouncing Indonesia and exhorting her to help make the country an Islamic state. But Dewi wasn’t looking to overthrow the government; she was going undercover to learn the secrets of the outlawed Indonesian Islamic State (NII).

Indonesia is facing an identity crisis of sorts. Islamic fundamentalism is seen making inroads here, eroding support for the country’s inclusive state philosophy, Pancasila. People point to regional bylaws requiring Islamic dress and mobs of Muslims shutting down churches and closing bars as proof that the country is losing its pluralism.

It is against this background that the NII and the Al Zaytun boarding school in Indramayu, West Java, allegedly affiliated with the movement and seen as a breeding ground for radicals, have re-emerged as hot topics of discussion. The movement has been around for decades, but now its stated goal of establishing an Islamic state here seems someone more of an actual threat to some people.

Dewi, a sociologist who graduated from the University of Indonesia, decided to look beyond the headlines to find out what the NII was really about after a few of her friends were recruited by the organization.

She went undercover in the group in 2008 and 2009 and turned her findings into a book, “Mengapa Saya Memilih Negara Islam” (“Why I Choose an Islamic State”), which was released last month.

In the book, Dewi shares her firsthand accounts of the NII’s recruitment methods and details interviews with six former members of the organization. Perhaps her most surprising finding was that the NII is hardly the threat to the state that is portrayed in the media.

Book: Mengapa Saya Memilih Negara Islam’ (‘Why I Choose an Islamic State’)
Dewi Triana, Mizan Pustaka, 265 pages, In Indonesian

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European Parliament adopts resolution on human rights in Indonesia

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution on human rights in Indonesia, which makes reference to attacks on religious minorities such as Christians and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

The move last week by the European Parliament follows a resolution in the UK Parliament, which has been signed by 38 MPs so far, a letter of concern signed by members of Congress in the US and a resolution in the Swedish Parliament, all highlighting the violent persecution of minorities in Indonesia.

The European Parliament resolution expresses “grave concern at the incidents of violence against religious minorities, particularly Ahmadi Muslims, Christians, Baha’ís and Buddhists … at the local blasphemy, heresy and religious defamation by-laws, which are open to misuse, and at the 2008 Joint Ministerial Decree prohibiting the dissemination of Ahmadiyya Muslim teachings”, calling on the Indonesian authorities to “repeal or revise them.”

The resolution also applauds the work of civil society groups in Indonesia, including Muslim, Christian and secular think tanks, human rights organisations and counter-extremism organisationsin promoting religious freedom and human rights. It pledges support for those “actively promoting democracy, tolerance and peaceful co-existence between different ethnic and religious groups.”

Finnish MEP Mitro Repo, Member of the European Parliament S&D group, said: “While Indonesia’s national ideology ‘Pancasila’ has been a great example of enshrining pluralism, cultural harmony, religious freedom and social justice, there is a deep concern that the blasphemy, heresy and religious defamation by-laws are open to misuse. Such laws do not have a place in a State that truly respects human rights and engages in an open dialogue with its civil society.”

He added, “Indonesia should be open to co-operation with the international community so that emerging problems can be pre-empted.”

Pancasila Education

Re-emphasising the need for Pancasila based education values to deal with the rise of religious radical groups in Indonesia.

What pushes a man to identify himself as an Indonesian at one point then suddenly stops identifying himself as an Indonesian and begins to see himself foremost as a Muslim? Or perhaps a Christian or a Javanese? Or a Bataknese and so on?

The answers to this are incredibly complex and it would do no justice what so ever to pinpoint one single answer. Yet seeing the many conflicts that has happened in Indonesia between religious groups and between ethnic groups we can say that the problem lies not merely on radical interpretations of the holy books or the envies of the economic disparities among the society but perhaps it is also due to the single thing that unites us Indonesians, the Pancasila, has become almost non-existent in our society. It is still a symbol of Indonesia’s unity but nonetheless it is but merely a symbol.

For this reason I for one disagree with Yohanes Sulaiman, (Better Religious Classes Are What We Need Not More Pancasila, The Jakarta Globe 3 May 2011) where he discusses that we should focus more on the refinement of religious education rather than strengthening of our Pancasila education. I believe they should both go hand in hand.

The problem with teaching Pancasila nowadays is not the Pancasila itself but on how it is being taught to our youths. It is much like any other subjects taught in Indonesian schools, it only focuses on trivial matters and it emphasizes on the memorization of the subjects being taught, which in this case is the memorizing of the five silas.

We can no longer just merely indoctrinate our youths of the five silas of Pancasila but we must elaborate on the values that have lain dormant beneath these five silas, values such as tolerance, social justice, pluralism, multiculturalism and so on. These are the things that matter the most, not the memorization of the five silas.

The youth must understand from within themselves the importance of Pancasila and the values within it in order to achieve national unity. We can no longer enforce unity, because forced unity is such a fragile and flimsy concept of unity and will only produce limited nationalism. National unity must be grown within our youth and this can only be done by teaching the values within Pancasila not just by forcing our society to accept Pancasila as the bond between Indonesians.

It is much harder to achieve unity if we were only to focus on religious education.

Yet it does not mean that religious education in our country should be over looked. The drawback with religious education is that it always has this unpredictable possibility of it backfiring, such as the current condition of Indonesia’s religious education reflected in a research conducted by the Institute for Islamic and Peace Studies (LaKIP). There is no need to elaborate even further of the recent research conducted by LaKIP regarding the high percentage, up to 48.9%, of religious radicalism among the youth or even the research conducted by the Pew Research Center back in 2010 which found that 33% of Indonesians identify themselves as fundamentalists.

With these numbers alone we can see that religious radical groups in Indonesia has steadily become the rising star among Indonesians. It has used democracy as a tool and vehicle to perhaps steadily erect a theocratic government.

This is not just a disheartening prophecy of Indonesia’s future but this is a highly potential possibility of what Indonesia will become based on it’s current conditions.

Current conditions which not only concerns our meek government in being unable to subdue religious radical groups such as FPI but also the laws that the government itself has given birth to.

There are many laws in Indonesia that enables our government to meddle in our personal religious affairs and define what religion is, such as the No.1/PNPS/ 1965 which exactly does such a thing. What I see in these laws are similar to what the European kings have done in the past when the Catholic Church was still on a killing spree, regis jussu et universae plebis consensu, by the order of the king and the agreement of his people. Our “kings” are frightened of it’s people thus any wishes that our ignorant society has wanted has been constantly fulfilled, including matters that our government should not have intervened in.

Yes, perhaps prior elections conducted after our reformation has shown that Islamic based political parties are still far from achieving its goals but much like an unwanted weed in your front lawn, as long as the roots of religious fundamentalism are still entrenched deeply in our society there will always be room for it to grow and flourish. Again, we need no look further than the research that LaKIP and Pew has provided us. Although it would be somewhat utopian to remove every single root but it is possible to isolate it thus minimizing its growth.

When teaching of religious education there will always be personal prejudices, there will always be personal notions from the religious teachers on what religion should be like, there will always be, however slight it may be, a sense of religious superiority when teaching religion. Religious superiority often gives birth to pride and pride itself gives birth to ignorance and when a religious individual is imbued with a sense of superiority, pride and ignorance it is the perfect recipe for a terrorist to be.

Yes, religious education can be refined to minimize those matters such as by educating not only on the rituals and do’s and don’ts of the religion being studied but by educating on tolerance, pluralism, multiculturalism and even the science of other religions yet the results it may bring is limited due to religious education itself being sectarian. There will always be this invisible religious wall that divides people if we emphasize solely on religion. What we need is an education that is non-sectarian and embraces the whole of society. However reformed religious education may be we must not lay our hopes on producing a morally sound individual or national unity only by religious education.

We need Pancasila as a universal Indonesian values education that embraces every Indonesian.

What we have often done is that we have always questioned the impacts of religion towards the society but we very seldom question the impacts of the society itself towards religion.

By producing at first an individual that is tolerant and pluralistic with the Pancasila education he or she will have a tolerant and pluralistic perception towards many things around them including religion.

A holy book of a particular religion has rarely changed, what changes is how we perceive the holy book itself. If we have tolerance implanted in our minds, a holy book will give birth to tolerance as well, that is why Pancasila education as the foundation of Indonesia’s social values is critically important and should never be left out.

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Islamic Hard-Liners Plan Massive Rally on Pancasila Day

After failing to kick-start a revolution through massive protests echoing those in the Middle East this year, hard-line Muslim groups are now plotting an even bigger rally next month, this time claiming they have forged an unlikely alliance with nationalists.

Speaking from his home in West Java, Chep Hermawan, the leader of the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis), said that 40,000 protesters were expected to rally in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on June 1.

“Basically everyone who is a staunch critic of SBY will be on board,” Chep said, referring to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. “It will be like Cairo, where everyone who didn’t like Mubarak joined forces to topple a corrupt government.”

Chep named Sri Bintang Pamungkas, a Suharto-era political activist, and Andi Mapetahang Fatwa, a member of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), as being among the nationalists who had expressed an interest in taking part in the rally.

“We plan on doing this on the anniversary of the Pancasila,” Chep said, referring to the state ideology first articulated by former President Sukarno on June 1, 1945.

Chep said Muslim groups were hoping to return the Pancasila to its original state, as outlined in the Jakarta Charter of June 22, 1945. The first principle of the Jakarta Charter, which was ultimately incorporated into the preamble of the constitution, was the “obligation for all followers to observe Shariah law.” It was later changed to “Belief in the one and only God,” by then-Vice President Mohammad Hatta.

“We want the Pancasila to return to its original state,” Chep said. “We don’t reject the Pancasila, rather we want to restore it to its intended purpose.”

The protest, Chep added, would also cover other topical issues. “Basically our plan is to stage a rally that appeals to all, not just Muslims,” he said. “We have been talking with the nationalists and they agreed to join our rally, but they will be pushing labor issues, agricultural reform and so on.”

Demonstrators, he said, would also demand the dissolution of Ahmadiyah, a minority Islamic sect considered deviant by mainstream Muslims.

For the June protest, Chep said that meetings had been, and would continue to be, held with leaders of opposition parties and former presidential candidates, asking them for political and financial support. “I have also prepared Rp 2 billion [$234,000] to finance the rally in the hope that opponents of the government will be convinced to invest as well,” Chep said.

Islamic Hard-Liners Plan Massive Rally on Pancasila Day

After failing to kick-start a revolution through massive protests echoing those in the Middle East this year, hard-line Muslim groups are now plotting an even bigger rally next month, this time claiming they have forged an unlikely alliance with nationalists.

Speaking from his home in West Java, Chep Hermawan, the leader of the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis), said that 40,000 protesters were expected to rally in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on June 1.

“Basically everyone who is a staunch critic of SBY will be on board,” Chep said, referring to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. “It will be like Cairo, where everyone who didn’t like Mubarak joined forces to topple a corrupt government.”

Chep named Sri Bintang Pamungkas, a Suharto-era political activist, and Andi Mapetahang Fatwa, a member of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), as being among the nationalists who had expressed an interest in taking part in the rally.

“We plan on doing this on the anniversary of the Pancasila,” Chep said, referring to the state ideology first articulated by former President Sukarno on June 1, 1945.

Chep said Muslim groups were hoping to return the Pancasila to its original state, as outlined in the Jakarta Charter of June 22, 1945. The first principle of the Jakarta Charter, which was ultimately incorporated into the preamble of the constitution, was the “obligation for all followers to observe Shariah law.” It was later changed to “Belief in the one and only God,” by then-Vice President Mohammad Hatta.

“We want the Pancasila to return to its original state,” Chep said. “We don’t reject the Pancasila, rather we want to restore it to its intended purpose.”

The protest, Chep added, would also cover other topical issues. “Basically our plan is to stage a rally that appeals to all, not just Muslims,” he said. “We have been talking with the nationalists and they agreed to join our rally, but they will be pushing labor issues, agricultural reform and so on.”

Demonstrators, he said, would also demand the dissolution of Ahmadiyah, a minority Islamic sect considered deviant by mainstream Muslims.

For the June protest, Chep said that meetings had been, and would continue to be, held with leaders of opposition parties and former presidential candidates, asking them for political and financial support. “I have also prepared Rp 2 billion [$234,000] to finance the rally in the hope that opponents of the government will be convinced to invest as well,” Chep said.

Intelligence Investigates Al-Zaitun Leader for NII link

State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Sutanto, is investigating the involvement of the Al- Zaitun Islamic Boarding School head in Indramayu, West Java, Panji Gumilang, in the Darul Islam and Indonesian Islamic Country (NII) movements. “The police are gathering the evidence,” he said in Jakarta yesterday.

Panji is suspected of spreading NII ideology. NII propagate a doctrine that spreads hate through alleged brainwashing. Newly recruited members, for example, must deposit money to the organization.

According to BIN, NII is active in areas outside Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi. Sutanto stressed the police would take legal actions if NII was proven to have worked in several areas. “We have done this in West Java,” he added.

Metro Police operational bureau chief, Comm. Sujarno, said the police had mapped the locations of several NII recruitment bases. “We can’t mention them one by one,” he added.

Sutanto denied that members of the Indonesian Armed Forces were involved in NII actions. “Don’t think like the past. This is the reform era,” he said. He also stressed that BIN had been very transparent.

SBY Warns against Rising Islamic Radicalism

The Indonesian president on Thursday warned that the country was confronting a rising tide of Islamic radicalism, after a spate of hate crimes and bombings.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the country’s cherished reputation for tolerance and pluralism was under attack by extremists bent on turning the nation into an Islamic state.

The country — praised by US President Barack Obama in November as a “model” of tolerance for the world — has been shaken by bloody assaults on religious minorities and persistent attacks by homegrown terror groups.

“I have witnessed that there has been a radicalization movement in this nation with religious and ideological motives,” Yudhoyono said in a speech at a national development conference in Jakarta.

“If we continue to let this happen, it will threaten the character of our nation and our people.”

He said radical extremists, who make up a small but very vocal section of Indonesia’s 200 million Muslims, were encouraging young Indonesians to “love violence” and reject the law of the diverse country.

“In the long term … if it continues, it will change the character of our communities which are tolerant and love harmony and peace.
“It must not happen, we should not be passive … We have to take responsibility to save this nation and save its people and its future.”

The president called on religious leaders to help turn the tide of rising religious extremism.
“I want the religious leaders to be involved and to make sure that the religious teachings are on the right track,” he said.

PKS denounces Bintan`s planned beach party fashion show

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) has denounced the Bintan district tourism office`s plan to organize a beach party fashion show as part of its efforts to attract tourists.

“PKS strongly condemns the plan and asks the Bintan district tourism office to abandon it,” chief of the party`s branch in Riau Island province Abdulrahman said here on Tuesday.

The Bintan district administration is planning to hold a beach party fashion in the middle of May 2011 to attract as many domestic and foreign tourists as possible.

Abdulrahman said there were still many other ways to attract tourist arrivals in Lagoi tourist resort without having to organize such fashion that had sparked strong reaction from many sides.
“Don`t pursue seasonal benefit at the expense of large interests,” he said.
He said the fashion ran counter to the role of Riau Islands province as a center of Malay culture which is very identical to Islam.

“The plan to hold the fashion obviously ignores the Malay culture as the parent culture of Riau Islands,” he said.

The fashion not only contradicted the Malay norms and culture but also violated pornographic law, he said.

Indonesia trial opens over attack on Ahmadiyah sect

Indonesia has long been proud of its diverse ethnicity, cultures and spiritual beliefs. However, recent attacks on minority groups like the Ahmadiyah sect and on Christian churches have critics claiming that religious tolerance is on the decline.

Twelve people in Indonesia are set to face trial on Tuesday, accused of killing three Ahmadiyah followers in West Java, in February. The savage nature of the murders, captured on tape, shocked the nation.

Rights groups hope the trial will help reduce attacks on religious minorities.

Phil Robertson, from Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera there is a concern for the security of the witnesses.

“We want to make sure that the government of Indonesia takes the necessary precautions to ensure that the witnesses are not intimidated,” he said.

The Ahmadiyah sect, which claims 500,000 followers in Indonesia, believes that its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the final prophet and not Mohammad, contradicting a central tenet of mainstream Islam.

In 2008, the Indonesian government issued a joint ministerial decree that bans the Ahmadiyah from practising their faith in public or spreading the belief.

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen reports from the scene of the killings, where the locals say a lack of leadership on the issue offers tacit approval to Islamic hardliners that is fuelling a growing intolerance.

Indonesian women repel armed Islamists

ANGRY Indonesian women yesterday fought off a mob of armed Islamists after the religious fanatics tried to evict a mother and her newborn baby from a house.

Reports said dozens of aggrieved housewives forced the Islamists to flee for safety and attacked their leader’s vehicle during the incident near Medan, northern Sumatra,.

“What the housewives did here was spontaneous and it was because we care for our neighbors who are in trouble,” a witness identified as Evi was quoted as saying in the Jakarta Globe.

The melee erupted on Saturday when the women rushed to the defence of their neighbour, Nurhayati, and her two-week-old baby.

A group of about 12 stick-wielding men from the Islamic Defenders Front – a notoriously violent vigilante group that is tolerated by the authorities – had attacked her house over a land dispute.

Provincial Front leader Darma Bakti Ginting claims ownership of the land on which his cousin Nurhayati’s house was built.

“What he did was inhumane. Just because he’s the head of a mass organisation he thought he could take his men, armed, on motorbikes to damage Nurhayati’s house. He even took his wife and children to evict her,” Evi said.