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Secular Indonesian groups warn govt to save democracy

Growing tide of Islamization is threatening to wash away the foundations of indonesian society, they say

Konradus Epa, Jakarta

Konradus Epa, Jakarta

Published: October 19, 2020 08:03 AM GMT

Updated: October 19, 2020 08:06 AM GMT

Secular Indonesian groups warn govt to save democracy

Muslims gather at the National Monument in Jakarta at an event organized by several conservative groups in this file photo. One of their demands was that Indonesia must only be led by a Muslim. (Photo: Konradus Epa/UCA News)

Indonesian rights and secular groups have urged the government to stem a growing tide of Islamization in the Muslim majority country that they say threatens to destroy democracy.
The groups included the Public Virtue Institute, a democracy study group,  Rumah KitaB (Our House Together), a policy research institute, and Esoterika-Forum Spiritualitas, which seeks depth of thought and spirituality.
They claimed Islamization poses a serious and dangerous threat as it goes hand in hand with conservatism and intolerance.

“It increases political Islamism, which will lead to the establishment of an Islamic state that rejects democracy,” they said in an Oct. 17 statement.
Extremists were abusing religion to divide society by inciting hatred for short term goals, which were anti-democratic and against Islamic values such as justice, unity, fraternity, and freedom.  

The groups called on the government to take decisive yet non-repressive action against to turn back the tide before it is too late.
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They suggested working more closely with Islamic organizations to promote Islamic teachings that uphold democracy and pluralism and protect individual freedom and social justice.
Abdul Muti, general secretary of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Islamic organization with over 22 million followers, said Islam fully supports democracy and will fight for it.
“Democracy is not only a political system, but embodies a set of values that are the basis of welfare and social justice in a civilized nation,” he said.
Public Virtue executive director, Ahmad Taufiq, said government efforts to preserve pluralism must be supported.
“The ideology of Islamic state is irrelevant in this country, which has high respect for [religious and cultural] diversity,” he said.
Stanislaus Riyanta, an intelligence analyst from the University of Indonesia, said hardline groups are looking to push identity politics including within government bodies.

By identity politics, he was referring to hardline Islamists forming exclusive socio-political alliances at the expense of broad-based, coalitional politics upon which democratic societies are based.
He said Indonesian rules on issuing building permits for places of worship, which puts minority groups at risk, were an example of government regulations perpetrating identity politics.

The rules require a list of names and signatures of 90 worshippers and signed support from at least 60 local residents and approval by a village head before a permit to build a house of worship is issued.

Minorities say these are unfair stipulations that hard-line groups exploit to prevent minorities from worshipping. 

“It harms democracy, as the hardliners hide behind the majority, so the victims of identity politics choose to remain silent,” he told UCA News.

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