Indonesian party shrugs off accusation of 'religious fascism'

The political party of one of Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls on Thursday denied accusations by academics and rights activists that its manifesto risks creating “religious fascism” in the predominantly Muslim country.

According to the Diversity Movement for a Qualified General Election, a network of more than 35 organizations across the country, the religion section of the Gerindra Party’s manifesto stipulates that the government has an obligation to control the freedom to practice religious faith.

It also says the government is obliged to protect the teachings of “pure” religions recognized by the state from all kinds of defamation and deviation.

These religions include Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism and Hinduism.

However, this poses a threat to minority sects such as Shia and Ahmadiyah Muslims, the coalition says.

 

The Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) is the party of Prabowo Subianto, a former lieutenant general in the armed forces, who is looking to run as a candidate in the July 9 presidential election.

Activists fear he could implement his party’s policies on religion if he comes to power.

“The state doesn’t have the right to say that a person’s religious teaching is pure or not. It’s personal … a relation between the person and God,” Muhammad Isnur from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute said on Tuesday.

Branding the manifesto unconstitutional, he said: “You can imagine if Prabowo becomes president, the followers of Ahmadiyah and Shia, for example, will surely be discriminated against because there is an assumption that their religious teachings are deviant.”

Inggrid Silitonga, executive director of the Institute for Studies on Human Rights and Democracy, claimed existing victimization of minority religious groups could increase.

“What if Gerindra Party [via Prabowo] puts the manifesto into practice? For sure, violence against religious minority groups will be larger as the state, too, will support certain groups claiming to be guardians of religious purification,” she said.

The coalition urged Gerindra to scrap the religious provisions in its manifesto, saying it would lead to “religious fascism “.

This view was echoed by Ade Armando, a political communication analyst from the state-run University of Indonesia.

“Shia and Ahmadiyah are not regarded as pure religions,” he said. “The manifesto will allow the state to justify violence against Shia and Ahmadiyah, followers.”

The Gerindra Party on Thursday rejected the claims.

“Of course the manifesto doesn't aim to crack down on religious minority groups. We support the existence of such groups, all religions. We respect pluralism,” said Muhammad Taufik, chairman of the party’s Jakarta chapter.

He said a degree of control is needed when there is a threat to state security by religious militant groups.

“If there is a group within a certain religion … regarded as a threat to security, then the state should play a role in dealing with the issue” preferably through dialogue, he said.

Followers of religions should not disturb each other and incite conflict, Taufik said.

“We feel freedom of religion must be maintained. But the state needs to be able to help deal with religious conflicts”.

 Source: UCA News