Islamic groups are making inroads in Indonesia’s public and political life. Authorities warn against radical infiltrations in student organisations and campuses. Intolerance grows among middle-income Indonesian suburbanites.
Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Nearly 20 per cent of high school and university students in Indonesia support the establishment of a caliphate over the current secular government. Nearly one in four students said they were ready to fight for their religious beliefs to achieve a caliphate, this according to a new survey by Jakarta-based pollster Alvara released on Tuesday.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, has in recent years seen its long-standing reputation for religious tolerance come under scrutiny as hard-line Islamic groups muscle their way into public and political life in the young democracy.
Most Indonesians practice a moderate form of Islam and the country has sizeable minorities of Hindus, Christians, and people who adhere to traditional beliefs. Religious diversity is enshrined in the Constitution.
However, at the end of last year, extremist Islamic movements organised mass demonstrations against then Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian also known by his nickname Ahok, whom they accused of insulting Islam.
In April this year, extremists succeeded in preventing his re-election and influencing the court that sentenced him to two years in prison for blasphemy. Civil society groups harshly criticised the sentence, calling it an injustice.
Meanwhile, groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) demand that sharia be imposed in the country and claim that only Muslims should lead the country.
The authorities have repeatedly warned against the infiltration of radical Islamic ideas in student organisations and in campus activities.
President Joko Widodo and his government are trying to contain the growing influence of Islamists, especially in universities and Islamic boarding schools.
A presidential decree banning any civil organisations deemed to go against the country's secular state ideology was approved by parliament last month. Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organisation that calls for the establishment of a caliphate in Indonesia, was the first group to be disbanded under the decree.
Widodo has made various speeches at Islamic boarding schools around the country, emphasising the importance of diversity and national unity.
In September, he held a conference with some 3,000 university rectors to promote Pancasila, the country's secular ideology, in education.
Extremism and intolerance in Indonesia are not only spreading among young people, but also among middle-income Indonesians living in the suburbs, findings released by rights group Setara show.
Research conducted from July to October found that Bogor and Depok, two satellite cities in West Java to the south of Jakarta, have become hotbeds for radical preachers who spread radical and hate-filled messages in many places, such as universities and housing complexes.
West Java has been ranked the least tolerant province for the last couple of years, this according to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
In March, members of three Christian congregations had their Sunday services interrupted by protesters at the Griya Parung Panjang housing complex in Parung Panjang district, Bogor Regency.
The protesters said members of the congregations had violated regulations by holding services inside a housing complex, disregarding the fact that the Christians had not been allowed to build a place of worship in the area.
The latter held the services inside a house because their attempts to build a church had been repeatedly denied.