Indonesia Is No Model for Muslim Democracy
Andreas Harsono , Indonesia Researcher at Human Rights Watch
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Since the resignation of Indonesia’s authoritarian president Suharto in 1998, the country has made great strides in consolidating a democratic government. But it is by no means a model of tolerance. The rights of religious minorities are routinely trampled. Regulations against blasphemy and proselytizing are routinely used to prosecute minorities including atheists, Ahmadiyah, Bahais, Christians, and Shias. As of 2012 Indonesia had over 280 religiously motivated regulations restricting minority rights. Hard-line groups such as the Islam Defenders Front use narrow interpretations of local and national legislation as a key tool to suppress minorities. In 2006 two ministers in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's cabinet jointly decreed stricter legal requirements for building a house of worship. The decree is enforced only on religious minorities, often when Islamists pressure local officials to refuse to authorize the construction of Christian churches or to harass those worshiping in “illegal” churches. More than 430 such churches have been closed since. Violent attacks on religious minorities have become more frequent—from 216 cases in 2010, to 244 in 2011, to 264 in 2012. What explains this record of intimidation? Can it be stopped, and if so, how?