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Life is not so simple
If there were rules for all spheres of life, it might make things simpler. There would be no gray areas, no negotiation; a country full of don’t do this, and don’t do that. While adults are no longer six-year-olds, many Indonesians seem to wish the state would make more rules – preferably, of course, rules which favor themselves.
This comes to mind with the recent demands made by opponents of the Ahmadiyah school of faith, that the state nullify its existence and ban its activities.
The government’s Mystical Belief Supervisory Coordinating Board (Bakor Pakem), said Tuesday that Ahmadiyah would not be banned, because it had issued a statement saying its followers recognized Muhammad as the last prophet of Islam.
Earlier, the Indonesian Ulema Council, MUI, issued their own non-binding fatwa (ruling) that Ahmadiyah was an heretical Islam sect because it declared its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be the last prophet.
Those who agree with MUI say Ahmadiyah is free to worship according to its faith – as long as they do not claim to be Islam. Across Indonesia, and on numerous occasions, Ahmadiyah followers have been attacked for continuing to claim they were Muslim.
Whatever it is, Ahmadiyah is clearly not mainstream Islam, but we have stepped backward from our modest advances toward democracy because, yet again, we have effectively let the state step in to citizens’ religious affairs.
Muslims can argue at length on why Ahmadiyah is not Islam, and Ahmadiyah members have given their version. The “mainstream Muslims” have thus demanded that Ahmadiyah be banned, for its failure to recognize a basic tenet of Islam regarding the Prophet.
It was not for no reason that our founding fathers sought to guarantee freedom of religion under the Constitution. Around 1945 the new nation was perhaps as diverse as it is today, and the formulators of the Constitution envisioned that Indonesia, having received a multitude of religious and cultural influences from the early centuries, would continue to be far from pluralistic.
As has occurred throughout history in other nations in other continents, our past has been fraught with battles, many of which were “The Battle for God,” to borrow a phrase from the renowned scholar Karen Armstrong. This battle is often, consciously or unconsciously, a battle for power – if not for kingdoms, as in the centuries before the birth of our nation, at the very least a battle for the monopoly of truth.
In the absence of living witnesses who may tell us how the divine truth came to be – across religions and sects, and within faiths, as is the case with Islam and Ahmadiyah – we more than welcome intelligent, and even furious debate among religious scholars and followers of diverse faiths.
Making a demand that the state step in to decide what is Islam and what is not, would only momentarily satisfy the need for peace and order of the claimed majority. Now that the door is open to further rules on religion, whether we like it or not.
Those who felt they were a guardian of their faith may now feel they have the state’s blessing to conduct violent attacks on those who are “different.”
Thanks to demands that the state step in to the Ahmadiyah debate, life is now more simple for many. Those who dare pray in a different way and claim to be similar in their worship for Allah may now fear for their safety. Only now it has become a little difficult for us to call ourselves a nation which upholds the freedom of faith.