RI becomes ‘more Intolerant’ (CSIS Report Survey)

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Wed, 06/06/2012

A new survey published on Tuesday has once again confirmed the widely held assumption that religious intolerance is rising in the country.

The survey, conducted by the Jakarta-based think tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) between Jan. 16 and 24 this year, found that although 83.4 percent of the respondents said that they had no problem with neighbors from different ethnic groups, 79.3 percent objected to inter-religious marriage.

The survey also found that 68.2 percent of respondents refused to allow people of different faiths to build places of worship in their neighborhood.

Of the total 2,220 respondents interviewed in 23 provinces, 91.5 percent said that people from different faiths must get approval from the local community before they could build a place of worship. The survey’s sample represents the plurality of the country’s population.

Close to 80 percent of respondents also thought that all restaurants and eateries should shut down during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Most of the respondents in the survey also registered low levels of trust towards people of different faiths. More than 25 percent of the respondents said that they would not trust subscribers of different faiths, while 60 percent said that “they would be on guard”.

The survey also found that religious intolerance spread across party lines.

“No difference was seen between nationalist and Islamic party supporters. This means that party ideology, especially that of the nationalist parties, had failed to strike a chord with their supporters,” CSIS’ political and international relations director, Philips J. Vermonte, said at a press briefing.

A significant number of respondents also supported piety-oriented ordinances.

Close to 65 percent of respondents said they would approve a policy that would require female students to wear Muslim headscarves, while 61 percent of them would agree to an ordinance that would mandate students to be fluent in Arabic.

Philips said that the survey indicates that there was only little that the country gained in terms of religious harmony in the years after the downfall of the New Order regime.

“In spite of advances in democratization in the country after the fall of New Order regime, marked by three general elections in 14 years, there’s still a gap between political freedom and religious tolerance in daily life,” he said.

Philips said that the survey also challenged conventional wisdom that the government was the only party to blame for rising intolerance.

“The government is of course the one that should be responsible for promoting tolerance. But this survey shows that the problem lies also with society,” he said.

Contacted separately, Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Nasaruddin Umar acknowledged that there was indeed a trend towards religious intolerance, but he regretted the fact that CSIS released its findings, given that it could cause more trouble in the community.

“This will awaken the sleeping tiger,” he told The Jakarta Post.

Nasaruddin said that the world could get the wrong impression that the country’s majority Muslim population is responsible for the rise in intolerance.

Against this trend, Nasaruddin said that the ministry would step up its campaign to curb intolerance. “For instance we will keep an a close eye on books used in the [educational] curriculum. We will not tolerate any books that provoke religious conflicts,” he said.

University of Indonesia psychologist Ratih Ibrahim attributed rising intolerance to actions of groups and individuals who tried to benefit from communal conflicts.

“These parties seek certain gains, including political ones, by messing with our social harmony,” she said.

She said that if the trend continued, Indonesia could soon lose its bragging rights as a diverse nation. “We tell the world that we respect other religions and cultures, but the fact is that some groups are more dominant and we are now on the verge of a lawless society in spite of the fact that religion now plays a greater role,” she said.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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