Is Indonesia a secular country in practice?

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In Indonesia the "Pancasila377"-State principle, which provides for religious freedom and the equal treatment of the six recognized religions (Islam, Christianity (i.e. Protestantism), Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism). Religious freedom in the Indonesian interpretation means the freedom to choose one of the (recognized) religions. The freedom to choose not to belong to a religion is not covered. Belonging to an unrecognized religion is not explicitly forbidden as long as it does not violate applicable laws (especially blasphemy legislation). However, there is no special legal protection of their freedom of religion and belief, e.g. against threats from fundamentalist groups. In addition, they are faced with further hurdles in actually practicing their religion, e.g. when it comes to building their own religious sites.

The coexistence of the state-recognized religious communities is generally peaceful despite the occasional flare-up of tensions. The Christian minority (10 percent) in particular occupies an important position within the Indonesian state. Religious public holidays in Indonesia include not only Muslim but also Christian, Hindu and Buddhist holidays (Christmas, Good Friday, Ascension Day, Nyepi, Hari Waisak, etc.).
The increasing importance of a strictly orthodox interpretation of Islam in Indonesia has been evident for several years. This goes hand in hand with a decreasing tolerance towards different interpretations or other religious communities. These radical Muslim currents usually have connections to the Gulf region. Wahhabi and Salafist influences play a major role in the growth of intolerant Islam. Sharia law or regulations influenced by Sharia law are applied in around 10 percent of Indonesia's districts and municipalities, especially in the particularly autonomous province of Aceh. Government and political elites tend to anticipate strictly Islamic expectations. Islamist terrorism will on the other hand vigorously fought. The state measures to combat terrorism and against radicalization have so far not been used to restrict freedom of religion or belief.

It is the declared interest of the Indonesian government to preserve the traditionally more tolerant, typically Indonesian Islam ("Islam Nusantara"). Civil society is also working to counteract the increasing Islamization of social life and the spreading religious intolerance.

 

Demographic proportions of religious communities

According to official data from 2010 on religion in Indonesia378 87.3 percent of the then approximately 237 million inhabitants of Indonesia are Muslims, almost exclusively of Sunni faith (99 percent). The number of Shiites is estimated at around 0.5 percent, while Ahmadiyya Muslims make up 0.2 percent. Other religious communities are Protestant (7 percent), Catholic (2.9 percent), Hindu (1.7 percent), Buddhist (0.7 percent), Confucian (0.05 percent) and 0.13 percent others. Indigenous and non-theistic religions are widespread in Indonesia, but they are not recognized by the state and therefore not recorded statistically.

According to civil society, the proportion of Christians living mainly in the sparsely populated eastern parts of the country (Moluccas, North Sulawesi, Papua) is over 10 percent. Many Indonesians of Chinese descent are of the Christian faith, especially Catholic. There are Christian majorities in Papua, West Papua, East Nusa Tenggara and North Sulawesi. There are also significant Christian populations in North Sumatra (over 4 million) and West Kalimantan (approx. 1.5 million).

 

Legal situation

Indonesia acceded to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN Civil Covenant) on February 23, 2006.

The preamble to the constitution contains the commitment to "PancasilaArticle 29 states that the state is based on the principle of the one true God and that "all persons enjoy freedom of religion, each according to his own religion or belief." Civil society is called upon to support the national ideology. Criticism, rejection or blasphemous acts against this principle or the spread of hatred against other religions are prohibited. Violations can lead to the loss of legal status, the dissolution of the organization and the arrest of members. In 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled that the right to religious freedom must be weighed against the need to prevent social conflict.

The Blasphemy Act of 1965379 was originally intended to prevent public hatred or degradation of religions and provides for a prison sentence of up to five years for this.

atheism is not intended, but is not prohibited by legal regulations. Leaving a religious community without joining another state-recognized religious community is only possible to a limited extent. Registration as non-denominational is possible (the entry for "religion" in the identity card may be left blank), but rarely in practice because this can lead to difficulties when using certain state services.

Conversions between the state-recognized religions are basically possible and are also practiced regularly. Around one million Muslims converted to Christianity in the sixties and seventies of the 20th century.

The Construction of religious sites requires state approval. According to the decree of 1966, which was revised in 2006, this can only be issued when there are around 60 signatures from followers of another faith and a recommendation from the local forum for interreligious harmony. In practice, the construction and use of places of worship are the most common cause of religiously motivated local conflicts.

In contradiction to the constitutionally anchored freedom of religion stands the increasingly religiously inspired local legislation. In many other parts of the country, religiously inspired local regulations are on the rise, e.g. dress codes for women. The special autonomous province of Aceh is the only province in which elements of Sharia criminal law have been in force since 2003 (including prohibition of extramarital sex, homosexual acts, gambling and alcohol consumption; dress codes for women). Violations are also punished with corporal punishment. Since autumn 2015, the regulations have also been applicable against non-Muslims, provided the respective criminal offense is not regulated by national law.

A decree from 2008 prohibits the Ahmadiyya community Missionary activity in any form and provides for up to five years imprisonment for violations. Any form of recognition of the Ahmadiyya belief is also forbidden. Violation is punished according to the Blasphemy Act and the Criminal Code. There have not (yet) been any official convictions of Ahmadiyya, but believers are exposed to high social pressure and cannot rely on state protection.

In July 2017 the Law for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) changed by presidential decree. The government can now ban NGOs whose activities and goals are classified as unconstitutional. The first - and so far only - organization banned after the change in the law was the Islamist "Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia", which wants to replace the Indonesian state with a transnational caliphate.

 

Restrictions on freedom of religion and belief by state actors

In public life basically exists no systematic unequal treatment of people based on their religious affiliation. In everyday reality, however, it occurs frequently and increasingly Violations of freedom of religion and belief. The distinction between the six state-recognized religions and the non-recognized religious groups leads to the latter being significantly disadvantaged in numerous administrative processes, e.g. in the recognition of marriages.380 Minorities who do not fall under the six recognized religions (including Ahmadiyya, declared atheists) do not receive any protection from the state against threats from fundamentalist groups. This also applies in part to Shiites, some of whom are viewed by the Sunni side as adherents of a deviating and thus heretical doctrine, although no such restriction is made in the constitution. In individual cases, these minorities are persecuted by the state for disturbing the public peace (in accordance with the Blasphemy Act).
The blasphemy law is now used as an instrument to suppress alternative interpretations of Islam, intimidate religious minorities and prevent any criticism of Sunni majority Islam. In addition, various radical Islamist groups have used the law in recent years as a lever to advance their political and social agenda. Non-governmental organizations accuse the authorities, and in particular the security forces, of not sufficiently caring for the concerns of the religious minorities.

Since the Indonesian Ulema Council declared the Ahmadiyya as "heretical" in 2011, mosques have been closed again and again by the respective city administrations due to immense pressure from society. The Ahmadiyya mosque in Depok, near Jakarta, has been closed since 2017 subsequently damaged by young people, the reason for which were rallies, especially those that were known throughout the country Front for the Defense of Islam ("Islam Defenders Front" / PFI), who threatened Ahmadiyyas and called for the mosque to be closed and then destroyed.

Discrimination in access to public services occurs primarily at the local level (e.g. when obtaining marriage and birth certificates; access to the labor market; health and education) and in particular against Indonesians who are Shiites or Ahmadiyya or not Profess religion. Another reason is that the fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution are not fully implemented at all state levels.

Indigenous and Animist Religions (approx. 245) are widespread, but are viewed by the government as "customs" rather than recognized as religions. Their members can only organize themselves within private legal forms to one of the six recognized religions - depending on which of these religions is the least contrary to your views. There have been recent improvements in the legal situation of the indigenous religionswhose relatives have been able to register as such since the end of 2017. While they previously had to pretend to be members of one of the officially recognized religions, since the end of 2017 they have been allowed to simply enter "Belief in one God" on their ID card.

The internet use of civil society actors is basically not subject to censorship. In individual cases there is criminal prosecution of political expressions of opinion on the Internet on the basis of the "Law on Electronic Information and Transactions" and on the basis of differently interpretable formulations on the criminal offense of defamation or hate speech, the police and law enforcement authorities grant a large scope for interpretation in its application, which also according to the assessment of the Indonesian Constitutional Court leads to legal uncertainty.

 

Social conflicts with a religious component

Violent clashes or attacks against religious minorities occur occasionally. As a rule, these come from non-state, extremist groups. Members of Muslim minorities such as Shia and Ahmadiyya are more likely to be victims of such attacks, which are also associated with expulsions from their traditional villages. Attacks on Shiites in East Java in 2011 and 2012 resulted in the displacement of 500 people.

The syncretistic Gafatar movement, which combines Islamic, Christian and Jewish teachings, has been classified as "heretical" since 2016 and is forbidden by law. Islamic groups and the Indonesian judiciary have accused it of teaching "deviating from traditional Islam". More than 7,000 Gafatar members were reportedly evicted from their homes in Kalimantan as early as 2016. In 2017, three of their leaders were sentenced to five and three years' imprisonment, respectively, for teaching Islam "defiling" Islam.

Violent attacks against religious minorities are strongly condemned by the Indonesian government and representatives of all religious communities, but the police are repeatedly accused of inaction or too late intervention; criminal prosecution of acts of violence is often inadequate.

The causes of many conflicts between members of different religious communities are often of a social and economic nature. This applies in particular to tensions between the "Transmigrasi" policy381 immigrant Javanese and indigenous people on islands such as Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua.

One already 2006 decree on "religious harmony" Often serves as the basis of appeal for Sunni Muslims, especially in Java and Sumatra, to discriminate against religious minorities and to prevent non-Muslim missionary work, conversions and church building.

The high government regulations and the Approval practice for the construction of places of worship are often the cause - albeit often not an underlying cause - for religiously motivated local conflicts, ranging from demonstrations to the destruction of supposedly illegally built places of worship. The building of new Christian churches is mostly refused by local authorities and many churches are being demolished for flimsy administrative reasons.

Radical Islamic groups have repeatedly attacked Christian churches in recent years, including a church in Singkil in the Aceh province in October 2015 because it allegedly did not have a permit. In 2016 a Catholic church in Medan was attacked by a youth close to ISIS, and in 2018 three churches in Surabaya were targeted by suicide bombers.

The tiny Jewish minority in the country can only exist in secrecy; a public commitment to Judaism is as good as impossible. Anti-Semitic prejudices are widespread and emanate primarily from Islamic educational institutions, which have gained increasing importance in the Indonesian education sector with Saudi support since the 1980s (see the subsection Restrictions on access to educational offers in the chapter Opportunities and challenges for the human right to religious education) and freedom of belief in education).

Indonesia has made great strides in the past few decades Equal rights for women achieved. However, legal provisions in marriage, inheritance and tax law still contain discriminatory regulations, which are usually based on Islamic morals. Another problem are Child marriages. With the consent of their parents, young women aged 16 and over may marry; earlier with the consent of an Islamic religious court. Over 41 percent of Indonesian women experience physical, sexual, emotional or economic violence in their lifetime.382 Almost half (49 percent) of all girls under the age of twelve are affected by female genital mutilation (FGM).383 FGM is not a criminal offense in Indonesia. Almost half of Indonesian women (42 percent) say they experience restrictions on their personal freedom, such as not being able to use health services or practice religious practices without permission.384 Since 2016, the social Climate for LGBTI people in the course of a general Islamization of social life worsened. After anti-LGBTI statements by politicians and Islamic dignitaries, the police repeatedly used pretexts to dissolve or ban events with LGBTI connections. The broadcasting supervisory authority has instructed all media not to depict "LGBTI behavior".

 

Interreligious cooperation structures

Interreligious dialogue is part of the self-image of the community based on the "Pancasila" principle. It takes place at various levels, with and without the participation of state institutions. The moderate Islamic mass organizations Nahdlatul Ulama and Mohammediyah usually play a stabilizing role. Both organizations officially reject the ban on Shia and Ahmadiyya, on the other hand they are members of the ulema council, which among other thingsadvises the government on religious issues and plays a key role in repressive decisions.

The Christian churches, in particular, are very much involved - out of self-interest - in dialogue, which is becoming less important due to the increase in intolerance and the growing role of radical Muslim, Salafist currents.


377 Pancasila, pronounced "Pantschasíla" (Sanskrit for principles) is the official founding philosophy of the Indonesian state as part of the founding of the state in 1945, as a compromise between secular and Islamic groups. The five principles of the Pancasila constitution together with the state principle of the one true God are supposed to create a peaceful one Securing coexistence in the cultural and religious diversity of the island kingdom.
378 The figures are from 2010, but are still the basis for government policy, especially for the ministries of religion and education. The next census is planned for 2020, with the 2019 population already exceeding 270 million.
379 Defined here as the conscious public expression of hostility, hatred, or contempt for a religion with the aim of deterring others from following that religion.
380 There is no civil marriage in Indonesia; instead, the state recognizes a marriage made in accordance with one of the recognized religions. Interreligious marriages are not envisaged; in practice, they are made possible by a formal transfer of one partner to the other's religious community.
381 In the course of the Transmigrasi policy, which has been discussed since 1945 and implemented from the 1950s and 1960s, especially by the Suharto government, around 3.7 million (some of the figures are given as over 6 million people), often educated Javanese, relocated specifically to other islands in Indonesia . So the population density on Java should be counteracted and the economic development of the outer islands should be promoted. A welcome side effect was the mix of Christian and other settlement areas with a large number of Islamic settlers.
382 National Women's Life Experience Survey (SPHPN) (2016). Statistics Indonesia (BPS) in collaboration with the Ministry for Women's Empowerment and Children Protection.
383 UNICEF (2016). Statistical profile on female genital mutilation / cutting - Indonesia: https://data.unicef.org/wp-content/uploads/country_profiles/Indonesia/FGMC_IDN.pdf
384 Thematic Gender Statistics (2017). Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Children Protection.