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Indonesia passes mass organization law amid strong protests

New legislation will allow govt to disband groups it deems are a threat to national unity

Indonesia passes mass organization law amid strong protests

Muslim hard-liners stage a protest on Oct 24 in front of the parliament building as lawmakers voted for a law allowing the government to ban mass organizations. (ucanews.com photo)

Indonesia’s parliament passed into law on Oct. 24 a controversial regulation that allows the government to ban mass organizations it thinks threaten the country’s secular constitution and national philosophy.

The introduction of the law follows a decree issued in July that revoked an earlier requirement in a 2013 law which stipulated that mass organizations needed to be brought to court before disbanding them.

Robikin Has, an official at the Nahdatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest moderate Muslim organization said “the law is crucial considering the spread of radicalism and extremism in recent times.”

He referred to Jakarta’s governor election earlier this year, during which Muslim hard-liners protested against the incumbent Chinese Christian, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was later convicted of blasphemy.

The charge stemmed from him having complained that voters were being falsely told that voting for non-Muslims was against the Quran.

"This law comes at the right moment and we are optimistic it will be effective in maintaining pluralism and securing peace in the country,” he told ucanews.com on Oct 25.

Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, an outspoken priest and national secretary of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace said “the law was appropriate,” and “protects the nation's interests.”

"We cannot merely reduce everything to the issue of human rights, including the freedom of association. The right to associate should not violate the principle of bonum commune [common good],” he said.

Petrus Selestinus, a Catholic lawyer who also serves as the chairman of a lawyers’ forum to protect the national secular ideology called Pancasila, said the lawmakers have listened to the fears of society, especially among minority groups.

“Intolerant groups have run wild because they feel there is no firm law against them. We need an extraordinary effort to face this down and this law is one such effort,” he said.

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The vote to pass the decree on Oct. 24 took place as thousands of Muslims from various groups staged a protest rally outside the parliament building.

The groups, as well as opposition parties, had been vocal in opposing the initial regulation, which was used by the government to disband pro Caliphate group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia after accusing it of threatening national unity.

They have tried to fight the move by more than 35 judicial reviews with the Constitutional Court, none of which have resulted in a ruling.

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