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Indonesia’s Pancasila weakened
WE Filipinos have had the best of relations with Indonesians, through all the twists and turns of their and our respective country’s histories.
A fascinating fact about Indonesia—which has a population of about 245 million and is the world’s fourth most populous nation—is that it has the world’s largest Muslim population but remains a secular state.
Recent events, however, could indicate that Indonesia might cease to be a secular state before long. These have to do with a heretical Muslim sect, the Jemaah Ahmadiyah, which came to Indonesia from Pakistan in 1925.
In the past 83 years, Ahmadiyah has grown to be a sect with 200,000 adherents in Indonesia. It’s a gnat compared with the more than 215 million Muslim Indonesians who are members of the mainstream sects.
The Ahmadis have their own mosques and mullahs and imams. But the gulf that separates Shiites and Sunnis and other Muslim sects from one another is not as wide as that which separates Ahmadiyah from any other Muslim sect. For Ahmadis believe that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the last prophet of God, not Mohammed.
Orthodox Islam believes that the great prophets of Allah, the One True God, were Abrahim, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. The Ahmadis are therefore breaking one of the fundamental articles of the mainstream Islamic faith. Until recently, no one bothered much with the Ahmadis. With the rise of fundamentalist Islam in the past decade, however, they have been persecuted. In 2005, 2006, 2007 until today, they have, according to the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, suffered gross human rights violations.
Department of Religion edict
The attacks on Amhadiyah mosques, priests and members increased after 1980, when the Indonesian Council of Clerics—the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI)—issued a fatwa against the sect for being heretical. The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Indonesia even got involved. It wrote the Indonesian government’s Department of Religion recommending that the sect be banned. Three years later, the Department of Religion issued an edict proclaiming Ahmadiyah to be heretical and a danger to the Indonesian nation.
Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission then formed a special task committee to monitor the Ahmadis’ plight. It found that once the government made its formal declaration of heresy, groups of Muslims—organized in mosques or religious association heaquarters—actively marched against the Ahmadis with placards and banners. They shouted threats, evicted Ahmadis who were praying, vandalized and even burned mosques. Some local law and order authorities and policemen even participated in the attacks.
Civil Society to the rescue
Radical and hardline Muslim sects began to hold regular rallies and raids against the Ahmadis. It came to a point that civil society groups, including moderate Muslims and Christian human rights activists moved to defend the Ahmadis. Central government authorities then took action, arrested and jailed perpetrators of violence.
But this only increased the fury of the Muslim demonstrators, crying “Jihad! Jihad! Jihad! (Holy war! Holy War! Holy war!)” and threatening to break open the jails were the arrested radicals were kept.
The Indonesian constitution guarantees freedom of religion, although it recognizes only some major religions and sects, namely,
Islam (with 88 percent of the population), Protestantism (5 percent), Catholicism (3 percent), Buddhism (2 percent), Hinduism (1 percent) and Confucianism (less than 1 percent). In Bali, over 90 percent of the population practices Hinduism. In some remote areas, the religion of the tribals is animist.
The secularism of official Indonesia comes from its modern founding fathers’ philosophy of Pancasila (pronounced Pantjasila) meaning “the five principles” that are the philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state. These are: (1) Belief in the one and only God; (2) Just and civilized humanity; (3) Unity of Indonesia; (4) Democracy through consultation and representation; (5) Social justice for all the Indonesian people.
Though the pancasila’s “One God” principle obviously favors the Muslims and the Christians (Protestants and Catholics), through the decades—until recent years when radical fundamentalism has gained millions of adherents—animists, Hindus and Taoists-Buddhists-Confucianists (mainly Chinese Indonesians) have been respected and allowed to practice their religions unmolested.
Then on Monday, June 9, the government announced tough restrictions against the Jemaah Ahmadiyah while up to 5,000 angry Muslim hardliners, shouted calls for holy war and waved banners outside police headquarters and blocked the main route to the presidential palace.
The government decree did not quite fulfill the fundamentalist Muslims’ demand for the abolition of Ahmadiyah. But it will surely kill it as a public religion. It forbids Ahmadiyah from “spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam.” It specifies as forbidden “the spreading of the belief that there is another prophet with his own teachings after Prophet Mohammed.”
End of diversity?
The Indonesian government wants to be seen as a modern and human-rights sensitive institution. So Attorney General Hendarman Supanji told the world “There has been no dissolution [of Ahmadiyah].” But it is not even clear if the Ahmadis may practice their heretical version of Islam in private.
Outside, cries of “Allahu Akbar! (God is great!)” and “Jihad! Jihad!” filled the air.
What a great pity it will be if our Indonesian cousins ultimately reject their inspired republican motto: “Bhinneka tunggal ika. (Unity in Diversity).”