“The government is inconsistent. It proclaims pluralism and interfaith dialogue, and so receives international acclaim, but it is very indecisive and reluctant to act. If the government is more confident, then I am more confident we can overcome these challenges. The culture and nature of Indonesia is not extreme. The majority want harmony, tolerance, peace.” A representative of Muhammadiyah, one of the two largest Indonesian Muslim organisations.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, has a long tradition of pluralism, freedom of religion or belief, and inter-religious harmony, and is widely respected around the world for its successful transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. Rising religious intolerance, however, threatens to destroy these achievements, and poses a threat not only to the country’s religious minorities but to all Indonesians who value democracy, human rights, peace and stability.
Indonesia’s pluralism is in peril, and almost all of Indonesia’s different religious communities are affected: Ahmadiyah, Shi’a and Sufi Muslims, Christians " both Protestant and Catholic" as well as Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians, Baha’is, adherents of traditional indigenous beliefs, and those of no religion, as illustrated by the case of Alexander Aan, jailed for two and a half years for declaring himself an atheist. Progressive, pluralistic minded Muslims are also under threat, as shown by the experience of groups such as the Liberal Islam Network, and the attack by radical Islamists on Canadian Muslim feminist author Irshad Manji on 9 May 2012, at a lecture she was giving in Yogyakarta to promote a new book. For those unconcerned by attacks on specific beliefs, the cancellation of a concert in Jakarta by the pop singer Lady Gaga after threats from radical Islamists illustrates how wide is the impact of growing extremism in Indonesia. Religious intolerance, once thought to be confined to specific regions, now appears to be spreading nationwide.
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