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SBY urged to prove RI’s tolerance
Arghea Desafti Hapsari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Indonesia, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to repudiate statements made by religious affairs minister on banning the Ahmadiyah congregation.
The US-based Human Rights Watch recently said in a letter to Yudhoyono that the President should uphold freedom of religion.
“Yudhoyono should take clear steps to protect religious freedom, starting with loudly rejecting any ban on the Ahmadis, and ensuring that those responsible for attacks on Ahmadiyah homes and mosques are prosecuted,” HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.
“President Yudhoyono gave a nationwide speech about religious tolerance in the US, but what will he tell visiting US President Barack Obama about the Ahmadiyah mosques burned in Indonesia?” he added. Obama is scheduled to visit Indonesia on Tuesday.
Ahmadiyah mosques and homes in Indonesia have been the target of intimidation and a series of attacks, reportedly not only committed by civilians, but also by the authorities. The latest incident occurred on Friday in North Jakarta, where the city authority supported the demands of 20 university students who demanded the closure of an Ahmadiyah mosque in the municipality.
Yudhoyono previously told an audience at Harvard University that Indonesia “has shown that Islam, modernity and democracy — plus economic growth and national unity — can be a powerful partnership.”
The President also said Indonesia wanted to ensure that tolerance and respect for religious freedom was part of its “trans-generational DNA”, and that the nation was a powerful example of how Islam, democracy and modernity can go “hand in hand”.
In a report released in August, the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy recorded 291 incidents categorized as violations of freedom of faith in Indonesia. Of this number, 33 targeted followers of Jamaah Ahmadiyah, which has an estimated 200,000 followers.
Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali has repeatedly called for the Ahmadiyah faith to be banned in Indonesia. In late August he claimed that after seeking divine advice, he concluded that banning Ahmadiyah would be the best solution.
In a press statement, HRW said President Yudhoyono had failed to repudiate those statements, leading many to believe he supported the idea.
Anti-Ahmadiyah violence has increased since Yudhoyono announced a prohibition on teachings or public displays of the Ahmadiyah religion in June 2008, HRW said.
“President Yudhoyono should order Minister Suryadharma to stop playing with fire with his demands to ban the Ahmadiyah,” Robertson said.
Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Commission VIII overseeing religious affairs, Abdul Kadir Karding, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that he found Suryadharma’s statements “unwise”.