Muhamad Fahmi Mubarok W0473245


Instructor: Dr. Teena Gabrielson
December 2007

Ethnoreligious Conflicts in Indonesia and Their Impacts to Citizenship (SECOND DRAFT)

Introduction This paper will discuss the conditions under which ethnoreligious conflicts rise in Indonesia and how these conflicts influence the citizenship model in this country. To be more specific, I limit my discussion to some of the ethnoreligious conflicts happening after the Independence of Indonesia up to the year 2001. I take the examples of conflicts in those years which are more related to minorities’ rights to live and participate within the larger society of Indonesia; not about the minorities’ demands for separating from the Indonesian nationality. Indonesia is a country that comprises five big islands (Java, Sumatra/Andalas, Kalimantan/Borneo, Celebes/Sulawesi, and Irian/Papua) and tens of thousands of small islands. It lies between two continents (Asia and Australia), and two oceans (Indian and Pacific). Indonesia has been a peaceful country to live despite its people’s various backgrounds of ethnicity, language, and religion. Based on the 2000 census of Indonesian population, the percentage


of the ethnic groups shows Javanese 40.6%, Sundanese 15%, Madurese 3.3%, Minangkabau 2.7%, Betawi 2.4%, Bugis 2.4%, Banten 2%, Banjar 1.7%, other or unspecified 29.9%. Meanwhile, the percentage of religion in this country is Muslim 86.1%, Protestant 5.7%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 1.8%, other or unspecified 3.4%.1

Figure 1. Map of Republic of Indonesia

Having various blended backgrounds, Indonesia has adopted what Kymlicka in Shafir’s the Citizenship Debates (1998) says as multicultural citizenship or differentiated citizenship. This model seems to be the most realistic model for Indonesia because it can accommodate the whole population who vary


Data gained from and


in many aspects. However, ethnic and religious backgrounds have been more prone to conflicts than other aspects of diversity, such as language. Multicultural Citizenship To understand the condition of citizenship in Indonesia, it is better to take Kymlicka’s notion about what he calls as multicultural citizenship or differentiated citizenship. Since Indonesia is a country with various elements of ethnicities, races and religions, the citizenship model that it should apply has acknowledge all those differences. Kymlicka in Shafir (1998) divides the notion of differentiated citizenship into three categories: 1) polyethnic rights, 2) representation rights, and 3) selfgovernment rights. The former two are dealing with inclusion to the larger society. Meanwhile, the last is dealing with exclusion or withdrawal from the larger community. He then explains that polyethnic demand shows that the minority groups want to take part in the larger society. He takes a case of Sikhs in Royal Canadian Mounted Police as an example. In the Sikhs case here, they wanted to join the Police, but it is hard for them because their religious belief requires them to wear turban, their typical headgear. Whereas, turban is not part of the Royal Canadian Police uniform. Many people opposed the idea of the Sikhs to wear turban because they think this a sign of disrespect for “national symbols.” (Kymlicka in Shafir 1998, p.170). Whereas, Kymlicka adds that the special rights that they want is promoting rather than discouraging their integration.


The second type of differentiated citizenship that Kymlicka mentions is the representative rights. He mentions that the demands for representative by minorities that feel excluded are the demands for inclusion, and the recognition and accommodation of their “difference” is supposed to facilitate this. However, Kymlicka’s definition of representative rights is not clear enough. Unlike his clear example of polyethnic rights, he doesn’t give case examples of this practice in certain countries. That’s why it is ambiguous to categorize a certain case: does it belong to polyethnicity or representative rights? The third category that Kymlicka mentions is the self-government rights. Self-government rights, as he explains, is “the claim that there is more than one political community, and that the larger state cannot be assumed to take precedence over the authority of the constituent national communities” (Kymlicka in Shafir, 1998, p.175). Thus, the rights of self-government are definitely promoting disintegration. Kymlicka sees these as the most complete case of differentiated citizenship because they divide people into separate “peoples” each with its own background and territories, and power of self-government. In brief, self-government rights are the minority groups’ demands for separating from the larger society as they identify themselves as so far different from the other communities living there. Multicultural citizenship in Indonesia has the three forms as suggested by Kymlicka above. Indonesia has experienced a lot of multicultural cases related to minorities’ demands for integrating within or separating from the bigger nation.


However, this paper focuses more on the two former forms, which promote integration to the larger state (Indonesia). Ethnoreligious Conflicts In explaining the ‘religious’ violence, I use John Sidel’s definition. He suggests that “religious violence refers to collective physical attacks on persons or property launched in avowed defense or promotion of religious beliefs, boundaries, institutions, traditions, or values, and behind religious symbols and slogans.” (Sigel, 2006, p.7). So, I use this definition to define other concept of ethnic violence. Ethnic violence here refers to collective physical attacks on person or property using cultural symbols (especially races) as the differentiator. To know the factors that may underlie the ethnoreligious conflict, I think it is better to turn to Malley in Giannakos (2002). He mentions that there are at least three factors to explain the conflicts: 1) the existence of commonly recognized religious or ethnic differences that divide various societies; 2) the ability of one group to attribute to another group a material disadvantage that it feels it is suffering; and 3) violence has increased as the opportunity for aggrieved groups to attack their rivals has grown. The factors above coexistent in ethnoreligious conflicts in the past time as well as in the present. The details may be different, but the patterns are all the same. Ethnoreligious Issues in Pre- and Early-Indonesian History In pre-Independence era, there was an intense debate in Indonesia whether religion was used to differentiate citizenship. Some Muslims demand


Islam, which was the most adopted religion in the country to be inserted in the constitution. However, the majority opinion rejected the idea. (Hefner, 2001 p. 34). At that time, Indonesian leaders worked together to formulate a tentative constitution for the new republic. Hefner mentions that in Jakarta Charter2, the amendment to the declaration of independence, there was a paragraph stating that the state required applying Islamic law (shariah) for all Muslim citizens. The Islamic law was intended as the rights and duty for all Indonesian Muslims. But then the idea was deleted from the constitution of Indonesia. The founding fathers agreed not to use the term Islamic law (shariah) to differentiate Indonesian citizenship. By not using that term, it means that there is no differentiation of Indonesian citizenship. All Indonesian people are treated equally by the law because there is no term such as second-class citizenship for those who are not Muslim. Meanwhile, in this period (pre-Independence era), the idea of multiculturalism was still in conflict with the concept of an Indonesian nation3 because the concept of Indonesian nation is based on the indigenous model (Suryadinata, 2004, p.6). The indigenous model sees that Indonesian nationality is bestowed to persons who were born and live in Indonesia. This model excluded ethnic Chinese because it considered ethnic Chinese as originally form

Jakarta Charter is a tentative formulation of the Constitution of Indonesia signed in Jakarta (then became the capital of Indonesia) by members of Committee to Indonesian Independence. Many of them are nationalists and some of them are Islamists. One controversial issue in the Jakarta Charter is the phrase “Belief in One God with the obligation for Muslims to implement Islamic law.” (Drakeley, 2005 p. 74) Later the phrase “with the obligation for Muslims to implement Islamic Law” was dropped from the Indonesian constitution. 3 Suryadinata quotes Kymlicka’s definition of nation as “a historical community, more or less institutionally complete, occupying a given territory or homeland, sharing a distinct language and culture.”


different nation and that they were only migrants in Indonesia. The Indonesian nationalism movement happened before the Independence era, and this has consequence to the existence of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. Suryadinata argues that since Chinese nationalism appeared before Indonesian nationalism, the ethnic Chinese in colonial Indonesia tended to be excluded from Indonesian nationalist movement (p.6). Ethnicity also became the issue in the early Independence era of Indonesia. The clear example of this is ethnic Chinese in Indonesia who had lived in this country long time before the Independence. The problem was about the Chinese-Indonesian rights and duties as citizens. Hefner (2001) noted that there was a flourishing development of Chinese-medium schools in the late 1940s but then the minister of defense banned Indonesian citizens from attending those schools. This automatically abolished Chinese as the medium of instruction in schools for Chinese-Indonesian. The last Chinese schools to be closed were in late 1965. It was in the aftermath of the failed coup. A successful propaganda had made Chinese as well as the Communist Party blamed for the coup. This is because Chinese-Indonesian best known as the loyal supporters of the Communist Party of Indonesia. The impact of the propaganda has led Chinese-Indonesian lose their rights to use their ethnic language and to show up their typical tradition. These rights are actually promoting their integration rather than directing to disintegration. As Kymlicka says in Shafir (1998) that this kind of rights is called polyethnic rights. He adds that polyethnic demands are evidence that members


of minority groups want to join the mainstream of society (p.170). They just want to be acknowledged as citizens and given the special rights to express their traditional ethnic values such as language. While in European countries language becomes a very serious problem (as in Kymlicka, 2003), the Indonesian government banning on the use of Chinese as the medium of instruction did not automatically raise conflicts. Chinese-Indonesian opted to obey this regulation with unease. The using of Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) as the national language and the language of instruction at schools has finally gained the public support. This is to reflect to the Oath of Indonesian Youth held long before the Independence, i.e. in 1928. Indonesian people from different ethnicities agreed to identify themselves as one land (country), one nation, and one language, Indonesian. The issues of other ethnicities in pre- and early Independence were not really as hard as the ethnic Chinese. There was no exclusion for other ethnicities in the mainstream of the new republic because they indeed belonged to Indonesian nationalism based on indigenous nationalism. Thus, there were no serious problems of ethnicity that ethnic minorities (other than ethnic Chinese) faced at the moment. In addition, communal conflicts among those indigenous ethnics had never arisen. The Beginning of Ethnoreligous Conflicts in Indonesia Indonesia has experienced a number of ethnoreligous conflicts since the Declaration of Independence. It began with communal violence in the late 1950s and 1965, and happened again with ethnoreligious violence from 1996 to 2001. 8

These conflicts as suggested by Hermawan Sulistiyo in Hefner (2001) are not purely grass-root conflicts, but driven by political content in which military was behind them (p.305). The unsatisfied persons behind Suharto’s fallen regime wanted to keep status quo. They were people who got a lot of benefits and privileges in Suharot’s leadership who wanted to ruin Indonesia’s security and stability as the expression of their depression of Suharto’s fall. As mentioned above, the communal violence happened in the late 1950s and 1965 led to reducing ethnic Chinese rights in the national citizenship. Ethnic Chinese were those to be blamed on the Indonesian instability. The Chinese connection with the Communist Party seemed to be the “reason” for depriving their rights expressing their own tradition. Even, after the “nationalization” movement, Chinese-Indonesian people have to own Indonesian names. Using only the Chinese names were considered to be not nationalist. Since then, the Chinese-Indonesian have had little, if not said no, political access as owned by other Indonesian. There were no Chinese-Indonesian in the governmental offices. No ministers or high-level are from ethnic Chinese. However, they’ve been given a vast access to economic. Important business centers in Indonesia up to now have been occupied by predominantly ethnic Chinese. Many giant international corporations in Indonesia are also owned by Chinese-Indonesian. This happened especially in the New Order system of patronage in which former President Suharto was the country leader. In Suharto’s leadership Chinese-Indonesian were given portions in economy because they are naturally talented in business and can be benefited by the


Suharto family and friends to become dominant economic players (Drakeley, 2005, p.126). This is what raises critics upon Suharto’s “nepotism, corruption, and collusion.”4 Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia are famous for their talent in trade and business. Slowly but surely with the special access to economic, a minority of ethnic Chinese have accumulated wealth and power. This was often followed by as Bertrand (2004) says, impoverishment of peasants or the displacement of traders from other ethnic groups. Bertrand (2004) adds that those above cannot explain in themselves why ethnic violence was directed to Chinese-Indonesian. He gives example that what happened in 1965, the violence as triggered by a military purge of communist sympathizers. Meanwhile, religious conflicts didn’t occur tremendously in the early period of Indonesia. People from different religious background could live peacefully side by side in the country. The constitution of Indonesia which exclude Islamic law for Muslim citizens have proven to be accommodative to other non-Muslim citizens. Religious conflicts happened very severely in the period of post-Suharto which Sulistiyo in Hefner (2001) suggests as politically driven and military was behind them. Sulistiyo describes how the religious conflicts escalate. He takes examples of ethnoreligious conflict that happened in Jakarta where Christian Ambonese were against Muslim residents of Ketapang. Another severe tragedy

Suharto regime fell down after students’ huge protests upon his “corruption, collusion, and nepotism.” Students criticizes Suharto’s policy that is nepotistic since it gives privilege (in economy) to his close business partners (many of them are Chinese-Indonesian and/or his relatives and families). This is also that was considered as the beginning of his other misbehavior of collusion and corruption.


of ethnoreligious conflicts took place in the city of Ambon in the province of Maluku. It had direct or indirect connection to the previous incident in Ketapang, Jakarta. Sulistiyo suggests that there was a strong evidence to relate the hooligans in Ketapang, Jakarta to participate in the riots in Ambon, Maluku. It shows that the (intellectual) actors in Jakarta were involved in Ambon. And again, it emphasizes that it was politically driven. Not until two months after the riots in Ambon occurred similar violent conflicts began in Sambas and Singkawang areas in West Kalimantan. This time the conflict was basically ethnic, which involve local Dayaks and immigrant Madurese. Sulistiyo in Hefner (2001) explains that such conflict was just like in Ambon and Ketapang which was initially as a criminal dispute, then continued as a communal conflict colored with ethnic issues. (p.304). Michael Malley in Giannakos (2002) spots his concern on the two conflicts (in West Kalimantan and in Ambon) because these were the largest ethnoreligious conflict of all that happened in Indonesia. Malley suggests that all the major conflicts occurred outside the island of Java (the center of Indonesian politics). To him, it strongly shows that the centralization of political power under Suharto is an important source of current conflicts. Throughout the centralistic politics, all twenty seven governors and more than three hundred districts head were appointed by the central government in Jakarta. Most of the officials were active or retired military officers. The central government also support budget for provincial government that could exceed ¾ percent of the total provincial budget. As a return, all provinces were supposed to collect incomes for the central


government. Malley concludes that the processes that produced the centralized state of affairs did marginalize the role of ethnicity and religion in Indonesian politics. Klinken (2007) sees the communal conflict Kalimantan a little bit differently. He says that in Kalimantan where it happened three times it was a locally dominant ethnic group – Dayak or Malay – who carried out a campaign of ethnic expulsion against a minority, namely the Madurese. (p.142). The frightened Madurese – which are originally from the Eastern part of Java – prefers go away off Java despite the central Kalimantan government’s suggestion to go back to their homes in Kalimantan. Moreover, in Central Kalimantan an ethnic Dayak People’s Congress in June 2001 resulted in resolutions banning the return of the Madurese except under some discriminatory conditions. Despite the bad conditions above, Kliken (2007) insists that the violence is mainly in the past, and this was transitional violence, not a permanent state of war. So, the violence only happened for temporary interest not a permanent one. To me, it is still hard to understand if those communal conflicts happened from inside the community without any ‘support’ from the higher power from outside. It is important to remember that the people in those areas have been living together regardless their distinct backgrounds for tens of years. Economic disparity, to me, is only one reason, but it cannot describe what really happened there. It has been a public understanding that the immigrant Madurese are dominant in the local economy compared with many local ethnic people. It can be


understood that it attracts jealousy. Nevertheless, why the same conflicts (such as in Kalimantan) didn’t arise in the era of Suharto? In here I agree with Sulistiyo’s argument above in which he says that political moves and military was behind them. The impacts of ethnoreligious Conflicts to Indonesian Citizenship So far, the ethnoreligious conflicts that happened in Indonesia do not affect the general idea of multicultural citizenship. However, Indonesia has changed the citizenship law to perfect the previous one. Indonesia has amended the 1945 constitution to deal more with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This is because the constitution of Indonesia had been formulated before the UDHR. So, the assembly inserted more detail articles related to Human Rights. Also, in July 2006 the new Indonesian citizenship law was released, but it was more to arrange administrative process to hold citizenship of Indonesia. Fundamentally, the government of Indonesia does not discriminate its citizen. Meanwhile, the new local autonomy policy in this country – to replace the centralistic system of power – has something to do with the reposition of the local community. Local people have privilege to be leaders/officials in their own country. Now there appear more local ethnic persons to sit in the office. This is on one side giving opportunity for local people to be in power. On the other side, it blocked the opportunity of people from outside to participate to gain power. This condition may lessen or even escalate the communal conflicts. If the authority is from local ethnic background, on one hand, it may guarantee that it 13

satisfies the local ethnic people. Yet, on the other hand, it may legitimize the expulsion of other ethnic people from that area. In turns, it can deprive other Indonesian’s citizenship right to live where they want to live. People from other ethnicities will feel that they are excluded from the society in that area since they don’t think they share the same identity. As Jeremy Waldron in Kymlicka (2000) states that “identity plays an increasing role in modern politic. It affects the way people perform their duty of civic participation; and it affects their conception of what it is to perform that duty responsibly” (p.156). I think if there is privilege to certain groups, it doesn’t reflect the real multicultural citizenship. This is because special privilege means that the people do not posses equal rights. It shows us that the local people have the more rights than the “outsiders/new comers.” Even, Suryadinata (2004) stresses: “…The concept [of indigenism] has also been applied to some ‘Indigenous Indonesian’ who transmigrated to other areas within Indonesia. These ‘indigenous transmigrants’ are considered to be ‘non-indigenous’ by the locals and hence discriminated against. For instance, the Madurese in West Kalimantan are regarded as ‘non-indigenous’ by the Malays and the Dayaks, and the Javanese in Riau are also considered to be ‘nonindigenous’ by the local Malays.” (p.11) The idea of multiculturalism will work only if all people have the same equal rights regardless their cultural differences and regional origins. In general, however, the condition in Indonesia related to minority groups is getting better. Indonesia does not experience other gigantic ethnic and religious conflicts. John T. Sidel (2007) on his writing Minorities, Migrant Workers, Refugees, and the New Citizenship Law sees that the social trends and legal forms in Indonesia have improved the position of minority groups.


In the 1945 Constitution of Indonesia that has been amended, in article 26, it is stated clearly that “Citizens shall consist of indigenous Indonesian peoples and persons of foreign origin who have been legalized as citizens in accordance with law.” There also stated in article 27 “All citizens shall be equal before the law and the government and shall be required to respect the law and the government, with no exceptions.” The two articles in the Indonesian constitution above have addressed the crucial points of citizenship, i.e. acknowledgment of citizens. The constitution as the fundamental base for other Indonesia’s laws (especially citizenship law) emphasizes the importance of inclusion for citizens of Indonesia by saying “with no exceptions.” However, Frans Hendra Winarta (2001) in his paper “Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia: Would it be Better?” argues that article 26 in the amended Constitution of Indonesia shows the justification of discrimination. He explains that the phrase “citizens” shall consist of indigenous Indonesian peoples and persons of foreign origin who have been legalized as citizens in accordance with law” is unclear about who really indigenous Indonesian peoples are. He adds that usually ethnic Chinese face problems with this. They are still categorized as persons of foreign origin who have to be legalized first, rather than as indigenous Indonesian peoples who automatically hold the Indonesian citizenship. Winarta’s worries about the ethnic Chinese position in Indonesia was then answered by the new citizenship law of Indonesia that was issued in July 12, 2006. The new law regulates more detail the terms and condition to hold the citizenship of Indonesia. The law explicitly mentions that it adopt several special


principles, one of them is non-discriminatory. It means that the state will not treat differently (or discriminately) citizens based on their ethnicities (tribes), races, religions, organizations, sexes and genders. The new citizenship law not only solves ethnic Chinese positions in the citizenship of Indonesia, but also maintains (once again) the multi-ethnicity and multi-religiosity of Indonesia. The state has emphasized its power to ensure its people who come from different background to live peacefully within the same nationality as Indonesian. Conclusion The ethnoreligious conflicts in Indonesia severely happened in postSuharto era. Some of the conflicts were between the local ethnics and the transmigrant ethnic. Some other conflicts involved religious difference as the trigger, and all of them were between Christians and Muslims. However, many scholars argue that ethnic and religion were only the trigger while the main point behind them were political in which the persons who benefited Suharto’s regime lost their ‘power’ and wanted to keep status quo. Those ethnoreligious conflicts actually do not change the general idea of Indonesian citizenship. However, it has more impact on the application or practice of it. Now, the Indonesian constitution addresses more the inclusiveness for all elements of Indonesian people disregarding their ethnicities, languages, races, and religions. Even, after the end of Suharto’s regime the acknowledgement to minority groups became more felt.


Bibliography Bertrand, Jacques. 2004. Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict in Indonesia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Drakeley, Steven. 2005. The History of Indonesia. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Demography of Indonesian Ethnic and Religion Groups in: and Hefner, Robert W. (ed). 2001. The Politics of Multiculturalism: Pluralism and Citizenship in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Giannakos, S.A. 2002. Ethnic Conflict: Religion, Identity, and Politics. USA: Ohio University Press. Klinken, Geert Arend van. 2007. Communal Violence Democratization in Indonesia: Small Town Wars. Oxon: Routledge. Kymlicka, Will and Alan Patten. (eds). 2003. Language Rights and Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kymlicka, Will, and Wayne Norman. (eds). 2000. Citizenship in Diverse Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mc. Donough, Kevin, and Walter Feinberg. (eds). 2002. Citizenship and Education in Liberal-Democratic Societies: Teaching for Cosmopolitan Values and Collective Identities. New York: Oxford University Press. Shafir, Gerson. (ed). 1998. The Citizenship Debates: A Reader. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Sidel, John T. 2006. Riots, Pogroms, Jihad: Religious Violence in Indonesia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


Sidel, John T. 2007. (article). Minorities, Migrant Workers, Refugees, and the New Citizenship Law. A Writenet Report by John T. Sidel commissioned by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Status Determination and Protection Information Section (DIPS) March 2007 in: docid=463ae6272 Suryadinata, Leo. (ed). 2004. Chinese Indonesians: State Policy, Monoculture and Multiculture. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press. The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia: As amended by the First Amendment of 1999, the Second Amendment of 2000, the Third Amendment of 2001 and the Fourth Amendment of 2002 in: Winarta, Frans Hendra. Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia: Would it be better? A paper presented in the International Symposium: ‘Constitutions and Human Rights in a Global Age: an Asian Pacific Perspective’ on 1-3 December 2001, organized by the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.


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