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Indonesia is No Model for Muslim Democracy - NYTimes

Indonesia is No Model for Muslim Democracy - NYTimes

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Published by Oemar Werfete

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Published by: Oemar Werfete on May 25, 2012
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25/05/2012 23:58Indonesia Is No Model for Muslim Democracy - NYTimes.comPage 1 of 3http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/opinion/no-model-for-muslim-democracy.html?_r=1
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No Model for Muslim Democracy 
 Anthony Russo
By ANDREAS HARSONOPublished: May 21, 2012
Jakarta,IndonesiaIT is fashionable these days for Western leaders to praise Indonesia asa model Muslim democracy. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clintonhasdeclared, “If you want to know  whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights can coexist, go toIndonesia.” And last month Britain’sprime minister, David Cameron,lauded Indonesiaforshowing that “religion and democracy need not be inconflict.”Tell that to Asia Lumbantoruan, a Christian elder whosecongregation outside Jakarta has recently had two of itspartially built churches burned down by Islamist militants.He was stabbed by these extremists while defending a thirdsite from attack in September 2010.This week in Geneva, the United Nations is reviewing Indonesia’s human rights record. Itshould call on PresidentSusilo Bambang Yudhoyonoto crack down on extremists andprotect minorities. While Indonesia has made great strides in consolidating a stable,democratic government after five decades of authoritarian rule, the country is by no meansa bastion of tolerance. The rights of religious and ethnic minorities are routinely trampled. While Indonesia’s Constitution protects freedom of religion, regulations against
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25/05/2012 23:58Indonesia Is No Model for Muslim Democracy - NYTimes.comPage 2 of 3http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/opinion/no-model-for-muslim-democracy.html?_r=1
 blasphemy and proselytizing are routinely used to prosecuteatheists, Bahais, Christians,Shiites, Sufis and members of the Ahmadiyyafaith — a Muslim sect declared to be deviantin many Islamic countries. By 2010, Indonesia had over 150 religiously motivatedregulations 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 Christianchurches or to harass and intimidate those worshiping in “illegal” churches, which lack official registration. More than 400 such churches have been closed since Mr. Yudhoyonotook office in 2004. Although the government has cracked down on Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al Qaeda affiliatethat has bombed hotels, bars and embassies, it has not intervened to stop other Islamistmilitants who regularly commit less publicized crimes against religious minorities. Mr. Yudhoyono’s government is reluctant to take them on because it rules Indonesia in acoalition with intolerant Islamist political parties.Mr. Yudhoyono is not simply turning a blind eye; he has actively courted conservativeIslamist elements and relies on them to maintain his majority in Parliament, even grantingthem key cabinet positions. These appointments send a message to Indonesia’s populationand embolden Islamist extremists to use violence against minorities.In August 2011, for example, Muslim militants burned down three Christian churches onSumatra. No one was charged and officials have prevented the congregations fromrebuilding their churches. And on the outskirts of Jakarta, two municipalities have refusedto obey Supreme Court orders to reopen two sealed churches; Mr. Yudhoyono claimed hehad no authority to intervene.Christians are not the only targets. In June 2008, the Yudhoyono administration issued adecree requiring the Ahmadiyya sect to “stop spreading interpretations and activities thatdeviate 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 writeeven stricter regulations. Muslim militants, who consider the Ahmadiyya heretics, thenforcibly shut down more than 30 Ahmadiyya mosques.In the deadliest attack, in western Java in February 2011, three Ahmadiyya men werekilled. A cameraman recorded the violence, and versions of it wereposted on YouTube. AnIndonesian 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 ethnicminorities 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 thePapuan 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 waspromoted. Almost 100 people remain in prison for peacefully protesting. Dozens are ill, but thegovernment has denied them proper treatment, claiming it lacks the money. Even theSuharto dictatorship allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visitpolitical prisoners, yet the Yudhoyono government has banned the I.C.R.C. from workingin Papua.Instead of praising Indonesia, nations that support tolerance and free speech shouldpublicly demand that Indonesia respect religious freedom, release political prisoners andlift 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 allminorities in word and in deed, and enforcing the constitutional protection of freedom of 

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