Congresul Mondial al Familiilor 2018 (CMF) FOREIGN

How the state favors and creates religious radicalism? Indonesia’s case.

Indonesia between the largest Muslim country and the archipelago of religious diversity.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, Indonesia, in the political sense we use today, did not existi. There was only the geographical archipelago composed of several thousand islands that were very loosely connected through Dutch colonial networks, but which had different historical experiences, languages, cultures, religions. Although there have been various projects of homogenization of the country, the particular diversity of the archipelago before the formation of the nation has been preserved until today in Indonesia.
Currently, Indonesia is composed of over 17,000 islands, with a total population of over 270 million
ii people, which includes a remarkable ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic diversity – for example, over 700 languages are spoken across the archipelagoiii. However, for the purpose of this article, we are most interested in and will insist on the religious diversity of Indonesia.
Indonesia is the largest democratic country with a Muslim majority in the world. About 88% of Indonesia’s population is Muslim. Although it is common practice to classify all types of Islam into one category and assign it with all the possible stereotypes (which usually apply only to a small group), the Muslim population of Indonesia (and that of other Muslim countries) is very heterogeneous.
For example, even though officially 99% of the Muslim population is Sunni, this in turn is divided into many other organizations, currents and groups that include a huge spectrum of religious variation: progressive Islam, moderate Islam, conservative Islam and radical Islam. The largest Sunni organizations are the progressive organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and the more conservative organization Muhammadiyah. However, even within Muslim groups such as Nahdlatul Ulama the diversity is tremendous, and it differs from one faction to another. Some NU leaders promote Nusantara Islam which is based on the principles of anti-radicalism, tolerance and compassion, while other leaders promote a more conservative Islam.
In addition to the Sunni population, there is also the Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslim population. At the same time, about 10% of Indonesia’s population is Christian (Catholic and Protestant), and also Buddhist, Hindu, Confucianist. Another part of the population (estimated 20 million) is follower of an estimated 187 local traditions and religions
Starting from this religious diversity in Indonesia, this article will try to historically trace the dynamics of the religion-state relationship, especially how the Indonesian state has regulated religious life in relation to religious diversity, and whether or not the state has consequently contributed to the creation of religious fundamentalism in Indonesia.

Religion regulation: three models of the state-religion relationship

According to Paul Weithmanv, the state-religion relationship can be categorized in 3 general models: – separation
– recognition.

  • Within the model of separation: the domain of religion and the state are strictly separated, so the distinction between secular and sacred, state and church is very visible. However, the state monitors religious life in order to ensure that the religious freedom of all religious communities regardless of their majority / minority status is guaranteed, but also to prevent and combat religious extremism.

  • Within the unification model: the state and the religion represent a unique intercorrelated system, without perceptible boundaries between the state domain and that of religion. Within this model there is no space for the majority-minority relationship or for the Other, any deviation from the religious norms is punsihed by the state.

  • Within the model of recognition: which is a form of syncretism between the first and the second model, the state, although it is secular, it still maintains a certain level of preservation of religion, religious values and identities as part of the legal political system. Within this model, the state regulates and protects religion and religious tradition as part of the national identity and cultural heritage. The state-religion relationship in Indonesia (and Moldova) is based on the model of recognition.
    Within the model of recognition, the state, while trying to guarantee religious freedom regardless of the majority-minority relationship, nevertheless usually favors the majority religion through state funding for the reconstruction and construction of places of worship, through less bureaucratic impediments and preferential conditions for their activity, as well as through including religious rituals in various political events (inaugurations of buildings, political holidays, opening ceremonies), and also through the introduction of religious education in schools (which is the religion of the majority), etc.

Within this model, the state-religion relationship manifests itself in at least two ways:

  1. The state influences the religion: the state regulates the religious life, in the sense of:

  • monitoring the religion to ensure the religious freedom of all religions regardless of the majority / minority status.

  • monitoring the religious life in order to restrict and condition the religious freedom depending on the majority / minority status, but also on the status of the recognized / unrecognized state religion.

  • monitoring by the state of public (and partially private) life to ensure the preservation of religion and religious values and to combat and punish deviant moral behaviours.

  1. The religion influences the state: the majority religion usually negotiates preferential conditions and influences the state policies.

Although the state-religion relationships are different depending on the historical experiences, the cultural and political context of one or another country, according to Ismatu Ropivi, we can analyze the state-religion relationship in a specific country by analyzing the country’s constitution, the model of the political regime and the religious structure.

In the context of Indonesia, the constitution adopted the model of recognition by placing religion at the base of the state structure. For example, all successive constitutions of Indonesia recognized in the preamble the existence of God. Similarly, Indonesia’s constitution includes specific sections and chapters that refer to the regulation of the religious sphere.

It is important to mention that although Islam is the majority religion in Indonesia, the Constitution of Indonesia does not establish any official state religion. Although religious freedom is guaranteed by some articles of the Constitution, yet other articles regulate the circumstances in which religious freedom is allowed and others in which it is limited. Similarly, religious freedom is limited by the way the state strictly regulates which religions are recognized and which are officially not recognized. Thus Indonesia recognizes only Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism and Confucianism (starting from 2006) and local religions (starting from 2017).

Most of the time, the state influence on religion, and the religion influence on the state are interconnected and interdependent. For the purpose of this study we will focus on how the state influences religion by monitoring religious life, public and private life. The religion influence on the state will be implied rather than analyzed explicitly in the following pages.

A History of the State-Religion Relationship in Indonesiavii. Pancasila and the symbolic battle for its interpretation – a story about the influence of religion on the state and the failure of the state to guarantee religious freedom.

The fifth Principle of Independent Indonesia must be based on Faith in the Almighty God! … Christians will glorify God according to Jesus’s teachings, Muslims will have their God according to Muhammad’s teachings, Buddhists will practice their religion in accordance with their Holy Books. But let us all have a God. The Indonesian state must be a state in which every citizen can glorify God without constraint. All citizens must believe in God in a civilized manner without „religious selfishness.” Let’s practice religion, whether Christian or Muslim, with solemnity. What is solemnity? It’s respect for the other… „

Excerpt from Sukarno’s speech (Indonesia’s first president) at the BPUPKI Assembly

In Indonesia, the state-religion relationship has a long and tumultuous history, which precedes the country’s independence, formally declared on August 17, 1945.

At the BPUPKI Assembly (1945), the major point of conflict between the Founding Fathers was choosing the state model of the future country. On one hand, the party of the Muslims insisted on the creation of an Islamic state, and the party of the Nationalists insisted on the creation of a secular state. The compromise between these two different models was the creation of a new state according to the Pancasila principlesviii.

Pancasila is the national ideology of Indonesia, which sits at the base of the Indonesian Constitution and contains 5 principles: the belief in the Almighty God (without specifying religion), humanism, a unified nation of Indonesia, representative democracy, social justice for all.

In the first draft of the Constitution, the principle „Faith in the Almighty God” was followed by 7 other words (dengan kewajiban menjalankan syari’at Islam bagi pemeluknya) which in itself means „with the obligation to implement Islamic sharia by its followers”. Subsequently, the 7 words were eliminated from the final text of the Constitution, and this meant the adoption of a secular constitution in essenceix.

Analyzing the „Faith in the Almighty God” principle it is important to understand the nature of the state-religion relationship in Indonesia, as well as the intrusive government regulations that used this principle as a starting point and as justification. The inclusion of this principle in Pancasila and later in the Constitution, gradually became the normative basis for the regulation of religious life, but also of social and political norms.

The principle of „Faith in the Almighty God” (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa) was the compromise that, at least on the surface, eased tensions between nationalists and Muslims. Apparently, at the origins, the Indonesian state stemming from the pluralism and diversity of the archipelago, refused to create a state which would favor one religion over another. On the contrary, it tried to guarantee everyone’s right to religious freedom. However, using the principle of the mandatory faith in the Almighty God as a compromise, it disqualified millions of citizens who did not share a monotheistic religion (various traditional animistic beliefs, other local beliefs but also atheists) and who therefore were deprived of their right to freedom of religious thought and expression.

The project of an Islamic state in Indonesia has again gained political aspiration with the state establishment of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The symbolic battle for the interpretation of the „Faith in the Almighty God” began with the creation of this new institution which fed the desire of Muslim activists to create an Islamic state, began. Starting from this point on, the Ministry of Religious Affairs began to impose an Islamic interpretation of the Pancasila principle. Since the 1940s, the Ministry, guided by the Islamic interpretation, has functioned as a guardian of the implementation of the „Faith in the Almighty God” principle in public life, and in the name of this principle the Ministry adopted strict provisions on religious freedom.

In 1967, with the establishment and consolidation of Suharto’s New Regime, the Ministry’s activity started to be strictly under Suharto’s control, firstly in order to control and regulate any potential opposition from Muslim activists, secondly to transform the public image of the Ministry from the institution that represents political Islam in an institution which is loyal to the Suharto regime.

Under Suharto’s regime, the significance of the „faith in the Almighty God” principle was disassociated from any association with Islam and gained a new meaning that was to express Indonesia’s cultural identity. The Faith in the Almighty God principle has become the ideological weapon of Suharto’s regime, and in the name of defending Indonesian identity, the regime has severely sanctioned any deviation from this prescription. Initially, Suharto used Pancasila’s state ideology to eradicate communism, then transformed Pancasila into the weapon through which he suppressed all forms of opposition. With the consolidation of power, Suharto expanded the list of Pancasila enemies to all those who criticized himx.

In fact, even though the regime abolished Islamic interpretation, the New Order used the principle of faith in the Almighty God to force religious groups in Indonesia to accept monotheism. Consequently, the regime recognized only a few monotheistic religions (Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism and Hinduism)xi and forced all citizens to choose and affiliate with one of these religions, which has to be indicated on the identity card. Between 1965 and 1995, about 110 regulations were issued regarding religion, which mostly were concerned about the prohibition of sects or doctrines, books or pamphlets that were considered deviant from the faith in the Almighty God principle.

The fall of Suharto’s regime in 1998 determined the inauguration the Reformasi Era, which marked the transition towards democracy. Although the reforms have helped to increase freedom of expression and the emergence of a diversity of political forces, at the same time the reforms have facilitated the revitalization of political-religious activism that has been suppressed for 30 years. Thus, all kinds of Muslim organizations from ultra-conservative to progressive and liberal have been set up. For example, one of the most radical Islamic organization (FPI), an organization operating nationally and responsible for a series of violent attacks on the non-Muslim population, was set up exactly 3 months after the regime’s downfall (August 1998). FBR (Batawi Fraternity Forum), another radical organization was established in 2001.xii

At the same time, due to the decentralization process, the state-religion relationship became more and more complex because, although the central government had the authority over the religious life, several local administrations began to adopt new regulations based on sharia regarding religion. According to an estimation, between 1998-2013, 443 restrictive and discriminatory sharia-based regulations were issued by local governmentsxiii.

Religious fundamentalism and consequently the rate of religious violence increased after the fall of Suharto’s regime. The situation deteriorated greatly between 2004-2014, during Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidency. The central government constantly refused to intervene when local authorities restricted religious freedom and, moreover, the president empowered the semi-official organization of the Indonesian Ulama Council.

  1. The state influence on religion. Monitoring the religious life.

Currently, according to The Review of Faith and International Affairs Journalxiv, the most problematic state regulations of religion at national level are:

  • Joint ministerial decree regarding the places of worship

  • the uncertain legal status of the followers of the local religions (aliran kepercayaan)

  • Law on blasphemy

  • discrimination against religious groups considered deviant (aliran sesat): Ahmadiyya, Shia, Gafatar.

Uncertain legal status of followers of local religions (aliran kepercayaan)

Currently, Indonesia officially recognizes the following religions (agama): Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism (since 2006), local beliefs (since 2017). Until 2017, local religions were not recognized by the state. Consequently, the followers of local religions were not allowed to set up and build worship houses, they didn’t have the right to obtain identity cards (because in Indonesia citizens are required to indicate in their identity cards one of the 6 officially recognized religions in the agama segment), therefore they didn’t have access to medical services and education, they were not given marriage or child birth certificates, and it was very difficult for them to get a job. Last year the Constitutional Court ruled that local religions should benefit from the same constitutional rights as other recognized religions. Now, followers of local religions can choose to indicate in their identity card ‘kepercayaan’ (faith), but still they are not granted the same rights as those that indicate “agama” (religion).

Joint ministerial decree regarding places of worship

In Indonesia there are 289,951 mosques. Similarly, in Indonesia there are 69 693 Christian churches, 24 801 Hindu temples, 3342 Buddhist temples and 651 Confucian temples which are active, of which 85% do not have official permissionxv.

The Ministerial Decree regarding places of worship adopted in 2006 stipulates that the construction of houses of worship is allowed only with the consent of the local community. Most often, this provision makes it impossible to build places of worship in areas where another religion is the majority. Those who want to establish a place of worship must present the signatures of at least 90 members of the congregation, and 60 signatures of people from households who worship other religions, but also a recommendation from the local office of Religious Businesses, from the local Forum for Religious Harmony and from the local government. As these requirements are very difficult to fulfill, this decree restricts the construction of places of worship and increases religious segregation. Also, the decree had the effect of empowering radical groups of Muslims, who rule over neighborhoods and block church constructions or, on behalf of the local community, forcibly close churches in areas with a Muslim majorityxvi.

For example, in 2010, when a group of about 700 members of the Islamic Defense Front and the Islamic Community Forum tried to prevent the Sunday religious ceremony of the Protestant church in Bekasi (West Java), attacking church members and injuring over 20 members, the few hundred policemen who were on the scene did not intervene in any wayxvii.

In December 2011 a Shia school, a counselor’s house and the school principal’s house were burned down. One day after the incident, a Sunni pastor said „It’s only their fault. They opened a Shia school in a Sunni area. Moreover, it’s a big mistake to be Shia. „

In 2015 a Muslim mob attacked and destroyed 11 Christian churches in Aceh, and as a result, thousands of Christians were forced to take refuge in the neighboring province. In response, the local government accepted the protesters’ claims and closed another 13 churches.

The law on blasphemy

The laws on blasphemy are provided by Articles 156 and 156 (a) of the Criminal Code and the Presidential Decree of 1965 on the Prevention of Blasphemy and Abuse of Religions. Article 156 (a) stipulates that „those who intentionally through their statements or actions disseminate hatred, misinterpret or defame a recognized religion in Indonesia, risk a punishment of up to 5 years in prison.” Although the law essentially prohibits and punishes any declaration or activity of atheistic or heretical defamation that can insult any of the official religions, in fact, most often this law is used to punish „blasphemies” only against Islam.

Out of 97 cases on blasphemy that were sent to court, 89 occurred after 1998.

As was the case with the decree on places of worship, accusations of blasphemy not only lead to intervention by the state and regulation by law enforcement, but also encourage attacks by citizen mobs.

Between 2016-2018, radical Islamic groups abused through verbal and online threats, as well as physical harassment at least 55 people who did not comply with the law on blasphemy. For example, in 2012, Alexander Aan, a public official from Sumatra was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison after writing on facebook that he was an atheist.

One of the most resounding recent examples that illustrates how, on one hand, the law on blasphemy is used to serve the interests of Muslim groups and, on the other hand, how it can be instrumentalized to achieve political victories, is the case of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as Ahok), the former local governor of Jakarta (2014-2017). Ahok is Chinese and Christian, so he is twice a minority in Indonesia. In the 2016 local election campaign, Ahok’s political opponents used and circulated a Qur’an verse to argue that it is haram (sin) for Muslims to vote in elections for a non-Muslim candidate. In response, Ahok said in a video reply that the verse in question is misinterpreted by some Imams to directly influence voting options. An edited video version of Ahok’s speech suddenly went viral on the internet, and the Ulama Council issued a fatwa accusing Ahok of blasphemy, and the FPI radical group organized demonstrations calling for Ahok’s conviction. In May 2017, Ahok was sentenced to 2 years in prison. Three days later, 3 of the 5 judges who convicted Ahok were professionally promoted by the Indonesian Supreme Court.

Discrimination against the religious groups which are considered deviant (aliran sesat)

Aliran sesat are religious groups that are not recognized as religions (for example: ahmadiyya, shia, gafatar) and therefore, they are not protected by law and they face hostilities both from the state and society.

Even though the Ministry of Internal Affairs has stated that members of these groups have the right to indicate that they are not part of any religion on identity cards, adherents of these religions are having difficulty accessing public services, such as obtaining birth and marriage certificates, obtaining medical insurance or access to bank loans, education, and even the right to be buried in public cemeteries.

Probably the most repressed group and suffering the most accusations is the Muslim group Ahmadiyyaxviii, which has a community of around 400,000 in Indonesia. In 1980, the Ulama Council issued a fatwa stating that Ahmadiyya is not a legitimate part of Islam. Consequently, in 1984 the Ministry of Religious Affairs prohibited the dissemination of Ahmadiyya teachings. In 2008, through a joint ministerial decree, the spread of the Ahmadiyya faith became a crime that could be punished with up to 5 years in prison. As a result, some provinces have banned any activity of the Ahmadiyya group, and authorities have closed about 100 Ahmadiyya mosques. For example, in February 2016, police and military forces evacuated women and children from Sungailiat district and local authorities tried to force Ahmadiyya adherents to abandon their „heretical” faith and „return to Islam.”

Because the state restricts the activity of Ahmadiyya and because the state persecutes the Ahmadiyya community, this encourages and justifies the violent attacks of radical groups against the Ahmadiyya community. Radical groups, in their own right, evacuate entire villages where Ahmadiyya members live. In 2011, a group attacked several Ahmadiyya members in Cikeusik, killing 3 members and injuring several others. Although several people were convicted, no one was charged with murder, the highest sentence being 5 months and a half.

  1. The state influence on religion. Monitoring the public and private life.

In order to uncover how the state influences religion by monitoring public life and deviant moral behaviors, we will refer to the Law of Anti-Pornography and Anti- -Porn-Activity, the Draft Law on Sexual Violence Eradication Bill and the Draft Law on the revision of the Crime Bill.

Law on Anti-Pornography and Anti-Porn-Activity

The draft Law on Anti-Pornography and Anti-Porn-Activityxix was initially drafted in the 1990s and remained untouched until 2005-2006 when it was proposed again for adoption. The draft law from 2005-2006 intended to criminalize not only pornography itself, but also many types of art, theater and dance, types of clothing (such as the uncovered feet and shoulders) but also to criminalize some types of behavior, such as kissing in public or displaying the „sensual parts” of the body in public. The „sensual parts” included „the genital areas, the thighs, the bottom, the belly and the woman’s breasts, either in whole or in part.” The penalties for violating these provisions were very harsh. For example, for public kissing a person could be sentenced from 2.5 years to 12 years in prison or fined between $ 14,000 and $ 68,000.

The draft law sparked fierce public reactions, and thousands of people went out to protest the law, although the bill also had supporters who expressed their position publicly. Finally, due to public resistance, the bill was withdrawn for further review.

In October 2008, the Law on pornography (called the anti-pornography law) was adopted even though thousands of people protested against it. According to the 2008 law „pornographic actions” include any „image, sketch, illustration, photo, text, voice, sound, moving image, animation, conversation, body movement or any other form of public expression containing obscenity or sexual exploitation and which contravene the moral norms of the society”. To illustrate how the Anti-Pornography Act actually works, we mention the case of 2017, when the Indonesian authorities arrested 58 gay people in a sauna in Jakarta (under the Anti-Pornography Act 7 people were to be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 10 yearsxx.)

In an articlexxi written for The Jakarta Post, the author refers to the statement of a human rights activist who in August 2019 claimed that more human rights abuses are being committed now in Indonesia than were happening during Suharto’s time. Based on this statement, the author concludes that it is difficult to compare the suffering of Suharto’s time with that of our days. It is certain that people have suffered in Suharto’s time and continue to suffer today. The only difference that can be drawn is the target to which public hatred and violence is directed. „In Suharto’s time you did not want to be Chinese, Confucianist, communist, radical Muslim, or to be from East Timor or Aceh. Now, you don’t want to be LGBT or to have sex before marriage.”

The Draft Law on Sexual Violence Eradication Bill

Currently, one of the most heated public discussions in Indonesia is the one on the legislative proposal on combating sexual violence. In short, the law was first drafted and proposed in 2016 as a reaction to a group rape and the killing of a 14-year-old girl who sparked public anger in Indonesiaxxii. The legislative proposal that aims to protect victims and witnesses of sexual violence has become a widely debated topic, including due to a petition initiated on The petition collected over 150,000 signatures. In the text of the petition, its initiator writes that „forced sexual activity will be punished by law, even if it is about a wife who refuses her husband’s sexual advances. At the same time, consensual sex, even if outside marriage, will be permissiblexxiii.

The populist moral movement has become so strong in Indonesia that talking about eliminating sexual violence in 2019 means encouraging women’s right to have sex outside of marriage.”xxiv

Draft Law on Sexual Violence Eradication Bill vs. Draft Law Revising the Crime Bill

For a better clarification of the public debates now taking place in Indonesia regarding the legislative proposal on the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill and the Draft Law on the revision of the Crime Bill, we include a brief report written for Platzforma by Fanny Syariful Alamxxv:

The Draft Law on Sexual Violence Eradication Bill was developed by academics, relevant public institutions, human rights activists, but also religious leaders from different religious groups. This legislative proposal comes as a reaction against the significant increase in cases of sexual violence against women and children.

According to statistical data from 2001-2010 provided by the National Commission of Women Against Sexual Violence, in Indonesia, approximately 35 women and children are victims of sexual violence daily. Surely the number of victims is much higher today. The increase in cases of sexual violence is a direct consequence of the fact that the legal procedure for reporting cases of sexual violence is flawed, especially since in Indonesia there is a general legal framework regarding sexual violence.

At the same time, there is another discussion in the Indonesian public space regarding the urgent adoption of the revised Crime Bill. In fact, the process of reviewing the Crime Bill started from the time of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and has continued to this day.

As most of the provisions of Indonesia’s current Crime Bill still use Dutch legal inheritance, the revision of the Crime Bill involves adjusting the legal framework to Indonesian values and local context. As long as Indonesia has not yet adopted the official Crime Bill, there are a number of very serious uncertainties regarding the various (Dutch) translations of the legal provisions, both in relation to crime reporting procedures and in relation to the criminalization process itself.


Although both the Crime Bill and the Law on Sexual Violence Eradication Bill are equally important for improving the quality of Indonesia’s legal system, however, the Law on Sexual Violence Eradication Bill has aroused reactions especially among the opponents. Opponents’ arguments are based on the fact that this legislative proposal is against religious (in particular Muslim) values. As noted by Gadjah Mada University (CRCS UGM), opponents of the Law on Sexual Violence Eradication Bill believe that the legislative proposal uses secular, Western liberal values ​​of feminism in every aspect of the text, starting from the definition of sexual violence. Opponents say that sexual violence happens because of the lack of family and religious role in daily life. The confusion that dominated the public space about how the law could or could not encourage abortion, sexual freedom or the rights of LGBT people helped to delay the adoption of the Law on Sexual Violence Eradication Bill , and convinced the general public that there must be a better way to combat sexual violence than to adopt the law.

At the same time, the Ulema Council of Indonesia recommends the urgent adoption of the revised Crime Bill and the draft law on Islamic boarding schools and declares that there is no rush in adopting the Law on Sexual Violence Eradication Bill.

In contrast, amendments to the Criminal Code include controversial proposals to criminalize certain actions, such as witchcraft, cohabitation, adultery, total criminalization of abortion even in the case of rape, promotion of atheism or agnosticism, and criminalization of LGBT persons for cohabitation reasons. The law does not criminalizes LGBT people because of their sexual orientation, but since LGBT marriages are prohibited in Indonesia, the law wants to criminalize LGBT people for cohabitation or sexual intercourse before marriage.


The relationships between state and religion, but also between religions themselves are very dynamic in Indonesia. Like everywhere else in the world. The Indonesian state creates the both the framework and the limits within which religious activism can manifest itself. As in other regimes of secular authority (eg Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt) when the dictatorship weakens, the most active and powerful groups are the religious ones, especially of radical and fundamentalist orientation. Similarly, in Indonesia, when Suharto’s „iron hand” fell, religious activists saw an opportunity to expand their influence and strengthen their positions. But there is nothing fatalistic about this process (like the fact that a dictatorship is needed and that Indonesia would not be suitable for democracy). The problem is that societies like Indonesia (or Moldova, for example) have not yet developed (for various reasons) democratic solutions to accommodate religious pluralism and have preferred to resort to authoritarian solutions.

Within a dictatorial regime, loyalty to the regime is imperative for all and dissent is penalized equally, regardless of the minority-majority status. Moreover, in the case of the Suharto regime, the Muslim majority was subjected to a much stricter control than any other religious group, and that is due to the fact that Suharto was afraid of a potential uprising by the majority. In contrast, democracy does not fit into the logic of political loyalty conditioned by the authoritarian exercise of power. In (only) electoral democracies politicians strive to win the vote of the majority every four years and therefore they deliberately choose not to integrate religious diversity (and not only) to create truly pluralistic societies in which the majority-minority relationship is not generating political favoritism. The electoral democracies (which are not prescribing participation and respect for the rights of minorities, and which are not developing and implementing integration policies) polarize and exploit in a populist manner the majority-minority relation for political capital.


i The word Indonesia (from Greek, the Indian Islands) was used for the first time around 1850 by British scholars. Only later, with the emergence of the anti-colonial movement does it acquire a political connotation. Until it gained its independence, in 1945, Indonesia was known as Dutch East Indies –

v Paul J. Weithman, Religion and Contemporary Liberalism, 1997

vi Ismatu Ropi, Religion and Regulation in Indonesia, 2017

vii  Ismatu Ropi, Religion and Regulation in Indonesia, 2017

viii Here is a short description of Pancasila:

ix Michel Picard, Remy Madinier, Politics of religion in Indonesia, 2011

x According to estimates, 1 to 4 million enemies of Pancasila were killed between 1965-1966: chinese, comunists, leftists, atheists and basically everyone that was suspected to have any relation with any of the official enemies. The 1965 genocide was depcited in the video documentary ”The art of kiliing”

xi Confucianism was recognized only in 2006

xii Among indonesian islamic radical groups: Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Indonesian Forum of Islamic Society (FUI), Front of Jihad Islam (FJI), Indonesian Mujahedeen Council (MMI), Forum Betawi Rempug (FBR), Hizbut Tahir Indonesia (HTI) etc.

xiv The Review of Faith & International Affairs Journal, Paul Marshal – The ambiguities of religious freedom in Indonesia, 2018 (

xv Indonesia State Department Religious Freedom Report, 2016

xvi  Melissa Crouch, Law and Religion in Indonesia: Conflict and the Courts in West Java, 2014

xxv Fanny Syariful Alam is a community organizer and coordinator of Bandung School of Peace, Indonesia.

Despre autor

Nenescu Lilia

Lilia Nenescu a studiat antropologia la Universitatea de Stat din Moldova. Între 2015-2017 lucrează la Asociația Tinerilor Artiști
„Oberliht”. Din 2017 coordonează proiectul „Comunități active pentru democrație participativă în oraș” și este membră PLATZFORMA.MD.
Actualmente face studii de masterat în dreptul muncii la Universitatea de Stat din Moldova.

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