Why is religious intolerance on the rise in Indonesia?

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Indonesian hardline Muslims react after hearing a verdict on Jakarta's first non-Muslim and ethnic-Chinese Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial outside the court in Jakarta, Indonesia May 9, 2017. (REUTERS)
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Indonesian hardline Muslims react after hearing a verdict on Jakarta's first non-Muslim and ethnic-Chinese Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial outside the court in Jakarta, Indonesia May 9, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 09 May 2017

Why is religious intolerance on the rise in Indonesia?

JAKARTA: A guilty verdict and two-year jail sentence for Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama on blasphemy charges have fueled concerns about the erosion of religious freedoms in Indonesia.
Faith-based tension has been mounting in recent years in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, undermining its pluralist reputation.
Here are three points that explain the issue:
Indonesia has often been praised for its moderate, inclusive brand of Islam, and the constitution guarantees freedom of worship for six religions.
However the archipelago’s sizeable religious minorities — mainly Christians and Muslim Shiites and Ahmadis — have been increasingly targeted as more conservative forms of Islam grow in popularity.
Some Christian churches and mosques where Muslim minorities pray have been closed due to pressure from hard-liners. Shiites and Ahmadis — regarded as heretics by some Sunnis — have been forced from their homes in mob attacks and on occasion even killed.
In one of the most high-profile cases, a group clubbed, hacked and stoned three defenseless Ahmadis to death in front of police in 2011 in western Java, sparking international outrage.
During the three-decade rule of dictator Suharto, authorities sought to run the country along secular lines, largely keeping religion out of public life and limiting the influence of hard-line groups.
Following Suharto’s downfall in 1998 and Indonesia’s transition to democracy, more conservative forms of Islam — often influenced by harsher brands of Middle Eastern Islam — have had space to flourish.
The new freedoms have allowed the growth of hard-line groups, such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), and successive governments have been criticized for failing to tackle the radicals for fear of being accused of attacking Islam.
“Post-Suharto, there has been quite a significant ‘Islamization’ of society,” said Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy head of Indonesian rights group Setara Institute.
“As long at it is to enhance people’s and society’s obedience to God, that’s okay, but we are now seeing a different phenomenon — the rise of radicalism.”
Hard-line groups such as the FPI, once considered fringe organizations, played a key role in organizing protests against Purnama, and analysts say they will feel emboldened after his jailing and last month’s election loss.
The accusations that Purnama insulted Islam centered on comments he made during a speech in September last year ahead of the vote for the next Jakarta governor.
He lightheartedly accused his opponents of using a Qur'anic verse to trick people into voting against him.
A video of his comments was posted online, sparking fury across the nation and leading to mass protests in Jakarta.
The saga, which led to Purnama being hauled into court to face trial on blasphemy charges, was seen as having contributed heavily to his loss to a Muslim opponent in a ballot he had been expected to win.
Yohanes Sulaiman, an analyst from the Indonesian Defense University, said the country’s image as a bastion of tolerant Islam would “suffer” following the court decision.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.