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Religious Affairs Minister Resolute on Controversial Decrees
March 26, 2011
Religious Minister Suryadharma Ali says the decrees on Ahmadiyah and places of worship are enough to maintain religious tolerance in Indonesia (Antara Photo)
Religious Minister Suryadharma Ali reiterated once again that two controversial decrees governing religious issues would not be revised or revoked despite increasing protests against them.
“The joint decrees will not be revised and the regulation on Ahmadiyah will remain,” Suryadharma said during an event held by his United Development Party (PPP) in Manado, North Sulawesi on Friday.
He was referring to the 2008 joint ministerial decree on the Ahmadiyah and the 2006 joint ministerial decree on houses of worship — two decrees the minister says are enough to regulate religious differences in Indonesia, but which pluralism advocates say foment intolerance instead.
“The decrees are still very relevant, it’s so obvious,” Suryadharma said.
The decree on houses of worship, issued by the ministries of religious affairs and home affairs, requires a religious group to obtain the approval of at least 60 households in the immediate vicinity before building a house of worship. It has been criticized for making it almost impossible for minority faiths to build churches in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
Calls to amend the decree resurfaced following the attack on two leaders of the Batak Christian Protestant Church’s (HKBP) Pondok Timur Indah congregation in Bekasi on Sept. 12. One leader was stabbed and another beaten. The church has been at odds with Islamic hard-liners, who have objected to the presence of a church in the area.
The decree on Ahmadiyah, on the other hand, requires the Ahmadiyah community to “stop spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam.”
Data from the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy shows that violence against Ahmadiyah followers increased following the 2008 national decree — with the number of attacks rising from three in 2006 to 50 in 2010.
Human Rights Watch has said the decree and the actions of top government officials facilitated discrimination against the group and unofficially condoned recent attacks on Ahmadis. The US-based NGO has also called for the removal of Suryadharma for repeatedly urging the cabinet to issue a total ban on Ahmadiyah.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has also been sent a letter by 27 US lawmakers urging him to immediately revoke recent provincial decrees and the 2008 national decree banning Ahmadiyah activities.