Indonesian Great Friday and the Matter of Blasphemy Law
Muhammad Imaduddin Nasution
Indonesian Contributor of KhamakarPress
At December 2th, millions of Indonesian Muslims gathered at the Park of the National Monument in Jakarta. President Jokowi attends the gathering to make a speech. It was a greatest Friday worship ever in Indonesian history when more than three (or more) million people pray together at the National Monument in Jakarta. Ahok as the Incumbent Governor Candidate of Jakarta is the reason of this Great Friday.
Blasphemy, as done by Governor Ahok, start in 2008, when he wrote a book titled Merubah Indonesia (To change Indonesia). At page 53, he told the readers that he has a dream on Christian President of the Republic of Indonesia. He also said that the Imams are deceiving people with the Coran. It is Part al-Ma’idah (Food Serving) verse 51 told us that Muslims cannot vote for a non-Muslim leader in political and governmental service. Ahok said that the verse is about chose the protector or somebody to trust in the situation of conflict or war. It is not about governance in today’s situation.
Religions are protected in Indonesian regimes year by year since the independence. The post-reform regime of Indonesia as a most liberal government in Indonesian history also protects the minor religions like Baha’i, Sikh and Taoism. Even Chinese New Year is a holiday in the Indonesian calendar. Ahok is not the first and only Christian head of region (province governor/regent/mayor) in a Muslim region. There are Teras Narang in Central Borneo and Cornelis in West Borneo. There was P.R. Telaumbanua, a Niasese Christian Mayor of Medan and then Governor of North Sumatra.
The heads of regions which came from minority groups in their regions, are never wound the majority groups at the place. But Ahok said that the Imams are lying for political reason. The Imams hate Ahok and the Coran is not about faith. It is political. That’s all about Ahok in the public spaces in Jakarta. Beside of that, Ahok has evicted some of Jakarta’s citizens. Eviction is the only choice he has to develop the Capital Territory. Of course it was a bad choice after Jokowi administration in Jakarta.
Minority Agenda in the Name of Pluralism
Indonesia is the largest Muslim Country in the World, so blasphemy against Islam is never acceptable, also non-Muslim domination in this country. Unfortunately the Chinese non-Muslims which came from non-native ethnics in Indonesia, are more popular in their wealth than the Muslim people. So it is a big deal here for the economic empowerment of the native people.
As we know, the colonial legacy in Indonesia has never really gone completely. Some of the Dutch colonial laws, cultures and traditions are still applied in the Indonesian governance and civil societies. But of course it is not all of the colonial laws and traditions. Some of the colonial laws are like civil law, crime and land’s law. Some of the traditions are like race segregation in neighborhoods, markets and employments. It is a colonial tradition to build some elite neighborhoods in the large and mega cities for a few of ethnic groups. It is colonial tradition when the Chinese always being a boss and the native always being labours. It is unfair for the people of Indonesia right now.
So what is the big deal? There is a non-native and non-Muslim domination in Indonesian economy right now, so political domination of the non-native will be not accepted forever. But the native Indonesians are never rejecting non-native minority as well as Muslim majority never rejecting non-Muslim minority. The post-reform regime of Indonesia accepts all of minor religions in Indonesia legally and formally. I do not know if there are some discriminated policies in the sub-regional level.
Long time ago, before the western countries talk about pluralism, multiculturalism and interculturalism, Indonesia has made a national tagline for the plural and intercultural society. Bhineka Tunggal Ika or unity in diversity, is legally and formally applied in Indonesia since it independence. It was in 1945, a couple years before multicultural Europe existed. Indonesian unity is the best in the World when the World assumed that Indonesia will be collapsed and divided after 1998 crisis (Habibie, 2006). But of course the Habibie administration has proved that the international experts’ assumptions on the end of Indonesia are incorrect. Indonesia still exists until today.
The concepts of pluralism, multiculturalism and interculturalism are equal to the concept of Indonesian unity in diversity. Religious toleration in Indonesia developed by the civil society a couple hundred years before Dutch colonialism in this country. The Kingdom of Majapahit and the Kingdom of Srivijaya are two pluralistic and multicultural kingdoms which were existed in Indonesian history. The Sultanate of Samudra Pasai and the Sultanate of Demak are also multicultural and defending minority groups in the kingdoms. So Indonesia has older concept on toleration and social inclusion than Europe.
The concepts of toleration and social inclusion in Indonesia, as well as pluralism and multiculturalism, came to the country in the era of the dawn of Islam in the Middle East. So, Indonesian concept on unity in diversity is the second oldest after Islamic concepts on religious toleration and multiculturalism. Indonesia is not learning toleration from Europe but Europe learns toleration from the Eastern countries.
But the independent Indonesia has many problems on religious diversity. Mujiburrahman (2006), named the phenomena as feeling threatened. The Muslim’s community feels threatened by the Christian community after 1965 conflict between Indonesian Communist Party and the religious communities. In the Soeharto era, the growth of Christian community is growing up. The Christian community can build many churches and chapels based on their denomination. But the Muslim’s community faced the issues of apostasy in this largest Muslim community.
Actually the growth of Muslim population is not reduced as well as Christian population. The religions are growing up and becoming dominate Indonesia. So the clash of missions between two religions is cannot be avoided. As examples, in the 1990’s there were conflicts between Muslims and Christians in the matter of church constructions in some cities. The Indonesian Muslims are fighting against church constructing in Indonesian cities where Islam is a dominant religion there.
It is natural in politics when some people feel threatened by growing minority groups. But Indonesians confirmed act on religious freedom and anti-blasphemy law. The acts regulate that a non-Muslim cannot asked a Muslim to leave his/her religion and vice versa. It is illegal for a Muslim to ask a non-Muslim to accept Islam. There is no forcing in religion (The Coran, Part al-Baqarah (Cow): 256). It concept is applied in the Indonesian religious law. But in history, the Christian leaders are not accepting the law.
The liberal Indonesians try to repeal the law on the name of pluralism and toleration. But is the fight against the law accepted by the majority? We have to prove that the majority of Indonesians can accept the concept of liberal pluralism which is promoted by the liberal groups in this country. The liberal concepts on religious freedom recognize the religious asking by a Muslim to make a non-Muslim, leave his/her religion and vice versa.
In Indonesia, we cannot ask our friends and families to leave their religions. But it is okay, legal and acceptable in the European community. In Ahok’s case, Ahok force Jakarta’s citizens to accept his own interpretation of the Holy Coran. Actually he asked his friends and some of Islamic scholars in the matter of verse 51 of al-Maidah. But he is a Christian and the interpretation of the Coran is private in Indonesia. There is no forcing in the matter of the Coran’s interpretation. Asking a man to believe our interpretation is a crime in Indonesia. Of course the Ahok’s case made us angry and cannot understand him.
Beside of the interpretation forcing, Ahok makes a controversial (or racist) statement in his book Merubah Indonesia (Purnama, 2008: 53), that he wants to be a Christian President of Indonesia. He also proves his ambition in the case of Christian president by making Christianization okay in Jakarta Capital Territory. Christianization and Islamization (by enforcement in religions) are not okay and unacceptable in the Indonesian law. Public do not want religious enforcement by use Christmas attribute in Christmas month, also hijab in Ramadan. But some of corporations and governmental institutions violate the law in many times. Of course the enforcement is a big problem after.
The 212 Great Friday and the Confusion of Jakarta
The 212 (2 December) Great Friday, is the greatest Friday worship ever in history. But the worship describe the confusion of Jakarta today. Jakarta looks confused after Ahok’s statement on the Coran’s interpretation. If he makes a blasphemy statement in his speech in Thousand Islands Regency, in Jakarta on September, he still cannot be jailed. By the law, the general elections (nationally or locally) are sacred in Indonesia. So Ahok cannot be jailed or punished in this case. But if Ahok cannot be jailed, in the name of election law, people with blasphemy records like Arswendo Atmowiloto and Permadi, do not agree with the decision. They are on the side of the Muslim community to protest Ahok.
The issues of Christianization legalized by Ahok, and the issues of blasphemy and racism done by Ahok are hot issues today. They are make Jakarta confused between the religious blasphemy and the local election. Which one is the urgent thing and which one is not urgent? If Ahok freed the supremacy of law in Indonesia is on danger. The people will ask the government about the supremacy of law. And the crimes will be “legalized” in the name of equality. But if Ahok be jailed, the sacredness of general elections will be questioned. How can a candidate be jailed, if the elections are sacred?
But now we can see that Ahok is on trial. He is go to the North Jakarta City Court to attends the trial on his case. But unfortunately, Ahok is not in jail right now. He is still free and can attend his rallies on the election. So the sacredness of the elections is still okay, when the supremacy of the anti-blasphemy law is not questioned. We can see that Ahok is cooperative in this case and I think he can be not guilty.
The Indonesian law agrees with the not guilty prejudice in every criminal case. So Ahok cannot be treated like an enemy of the people. The police cannot abuse Ahok’s rights in the matter of his case. Also the Commission for Corruption Eradication of the Republic of Indonesia cannot violate the value of not guilty prejudice.
So is Ahok guilty in the case of religious blasphemy? I cannot say yes or no, but I think we can see the sacredness of the elections in Indonesia. We know that elections are sacred in every democratic nation in the World. Even in the United States the candidates cannot be on trial at the time of their rallies and at the election days. It is about how urgent the elections are. The candidates can be on trial after their inauguration as official, or after the announcements of the election results.
Great Friday and the Issue of Rebellion
At least ten public leaders arrested in Jakarta at December 2. Police officials state that they are arrested in the case of coup against the constitution. Greg Fealy in his article said that there is agenda on Islamization of the constitution in the 212 rally. Professor Yusril Ihza Mahendra, a political leader and expert in constitutional law said that the arrested activists want Indonesia back to the 1945 Constitution and withdraw the amendments of the 1945 Constitution. Ideas on withdrawal the amendments are not new in the post-reform history of Indonesia. Former Vice President Try Sutrisno has talked about that a couple years ago. So it is legal and it is not about the coup.
We know that Islamic Defender Front and Hizb ul-Tahrir are the Islamist-Conservative movements which are fighting for Shariatization of Indonesia. But the people at the rally are plural and cannot be generalized. The common interpretation on Sharia in Indonesia is based on the fatwas of Indonesian Ulamas Council, and it came from the oldest and largest Islamic organizations such as Muhammadiyah, Nahdhatul Ulama (NU) and Islamic Union (Persis). Hizb ul-Tahrir has no history in Indonesia. The ideas of Caliphate Restoration and Sharia Laws are not common for now.
We cannot judge the rally as a rebellion as the Indonesian Police General Tito Karnavian told us before it. Karnavian has records and investigated by the National Committee for Human Rights. So it is not really serious to make a public opinion on coup against the Constitution. Even Indonesia could not withdraw the amendments of the 1945 Constitution. Professor Mahendra still defends the suspects and will be an advocate for them.
Karnavian’s allegation on the issue of coup is a serious allegation. So he has to prove his theory as soon as possible. We in Indonesia have memory of criminalization of social and political activists in the New Order era. Soeharto’s regime and Soekarno’s regime are the most tyrannical regimes in the Indonesian history. So Karnavian’s theory on the 212 coup d’état is a big problem for Indonesian democracy.
We have to admit that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is developing Indonesia better than Yudhoyono administration. Papua is growing better and becoming a developed region. Also Moluccas and Sulawesi, are developed better than the latest President of Indonesia. The Trans-Sumatra Toll Road (TSTR) has constructed in Jokowi era. It was nothing in Yudhoyono era. So we have to admit all of them.
But in the matter of freedom, Jokowi and Yudhoyono have the same problems. The issues of religious freedom and freedom of speech and expressions are very urgent in democracy. So democracy was threatened when the religious conflicts still exist in Indonesia. The existence of Hizb ul Tahrir and Islamic Defender Front harm Pancasila and Indonesian democracy. Also the freedom of speech and expression is in danger when the criticisms are banned in Indonesian media and in the public space.
The 212 rally is just a rally for religious freedom and humanity. Ahok’s statement at the Thousand Islands is not a good comment on other religion than Christianity. It will be a clash between Islam and Christianity when the religious leaders use the holy verses to attack each other. So we have to learn from the verse al-Ma’idah: 51, when it told us about leadership of non-Muslim in the Muslim community. It is right that the verse is not about administration, but it is incorrect if the other interpretations banned by a governor who is non-Muslim. Indonesia has no official or state interpretation of the Coran, as same as the Bible. We cannot force religious people to belief in our own interpretation.