Indonesian Discourse on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief: Muslim Perspectives

By Arifin, Syamsul | Brigham Young University Law Review, May 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Indonesian Discourse on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief: Muslim Perspectives


Arifin, Syamsul, Brigham Young University Law Review


I. Introduction

Discussion on the relationship between Islam and human rights is not a new subject. However, this topic remains an interesting subject because the development of Islam, either as a religious phenomenon or as a social and political phenomenon, is constantly connected to the issue of human rights. In the context of Indonesian Islam, the connection between Islam and human rights has developed in interesting ways because of the changing political atmosphere in the post-New Order following the fall of Suharto, the former president of Indonesia, from his office on May 21, 1998. Scholars Arskal Salim and Azyumardi Azra find at least four significant developments in the Muslim society in the post-New Order era that are connected with human rights, either on the discourse level or on the practical level.1

The first development mentioned by Salim and Azra is the replacement of Pancasila2 with Islam as the dominant party ideology. Following this change, Islam-based parties, such as Pattai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP) and Partai Bulan Bintang (PBB) exclusively offere political ideas based on Islamic shari'ah. PPP and PBB have been very persistent in trying to amend the Constitution of 1945 with the inclusion of seven words: "dengan kewajiban melaksanakan syariat Islam bagi pemeluknya," which means "with the obligation to observe Islamic shari'ah for its adherents." PPP and PBB claim that if these seven words were included, Islamic shari'ah would officially have constitutional status in the national legal system. The agenda promoted by PPP and PBB failed in the Indonesian legislature (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat (MPR) or the People Consultative Assembly) in 2000, 2001, and 2003.

Changes in ideological orientation - the second development in the post-New Order period - also take place at the societal level. In some places, there is an increasing demand for the implementation of Islamic shari'ah, similar to what has been done in the regions of Aceh and South Celbes.

The third development is the emergence of hardline Muslim groups, such as Laskar Jihad, Front Pembela Islam (FPI), Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), and Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI). The emergence of tliese hardline Muslim groups often leads to social clashes as a result of die groups' use of violence. FPI, for example, often attacks discothèques, night clubs, and other entertainment places. FPI believes that tlirough these actions, they are implementing the doctrine of al-amr bi al-ma'ruf and al-nahy can al-munkar.3

According to Salim and Azra, the fourth development is the increasing popularity of an Islamic magazine, Sabili, which, according to an AC Neilsen survey, has the second largest circulation in Indonesia after Gadis, a teen magazine.4 Sabili weekly magazine prints more tíian 100,000 copies of each edition.5 Initially, Sabili called itself a magazine of preaching, but recendy it seems to have promoted Islamic politics, particularly those propagated by hardline Muslim groups. In some volumes, Sabili supports the formal implementation of Islamic shari'ah in Indonesia.6 In Sabiiïs view, the best solution to get Indonesia out from crisis is through returning to the way of Allah by implementing Islamic shari'ah.7

The four developments above illustrate the implications for the relationship between Islam and human rights. The most salient, of course, are violent acts, which are often used by FPI. Among hardline Muslim groups, the actions of FPI are the most publicized. FPI, for example, has been reported to have been involved in a clash with Aliansi Kebangsaan untuk Kebebasan Beragama atau Berkeyakinan (AKKBB), die National Alliance for Freedom of Religion or Belief at the National Monument (Monumen Nasional - Monas) in June 2008. 8 This clash happened due to the different views about Ahmadiyah, an Islamic sect. FPI views Ahmadiyah as a deviant sect that has no rights to live in Indonesia. In contrast, AKKBB advocates for Ahmadiyah. …

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