04/24/2017, 16.08
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Hatred against non-Muslims grows as radical movements expand

by Mathias Hariyadi

Some 59 per cent Indonesians are intolerant towards minorities. Religious radicalism is on the rise. At least 11.5 million people are "spiritually" ready to change Indonesian society. The last election was poisoned by religious conflict. For Sinta Nuriyah Wahid, " radical groups have their own political agenda,” namely “the Islamic State of Indonesia”. Only 11 per cent of Indonesians are strongly opposed to an Islamic nation.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Sectarian acts against non-Muslims are rising fast, this according to a study by the Wahid Foundation, an organisation that promotes a tolerant and multicultural society in Indonesia.

The Wahid Foundation was set up to support the humanitarian vision of Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), a moderate Muslim intellectual and a former president of Indonesia, who, during his political career, promoted an inclusive version of Islam. As president, and as leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama, a Muslim movement, he promoted the rights of minorities, non-Muslims and Indonesian Chinese.

His widow, Sin Nuriyah Wahid, raised the issue of intolerance during a television interview on 10 April. The former first lady cited the Foundation’s study to warn her fellow citizens and her words continue to echo. The results of local elections in Jakarta on 19 April, which saw the victory of Anies Baswedan and radical Islamist groups, re-ignited the debate.

"Radical movements and the spirit of intolerance have infiltrated the daily life of Indonesian society. Only 11 per cent of respondents expressed strong rejection of the idea of ​​establishing an Islamic nation," Sinta Wahid said.

She voiced concern and denounced one of the most worrying findings in the study. About "59 per cent of Indonesians who responded to the survey carried out acts of intolerance towards non-Muslims."

This spirit of hatred against ethnic and religious minorities was the main reason for the electoral upset that saw Jakarta’s incumbent governor, the Sino-Indonesian Christian Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, go down to defeat.

Analysts note with apprehension that religious radicalism is rapidly expanding in Indonesia. The Wahid Foundation study found that around 11.5 million citizens are "spiritually" ready to make radical fundamental changes in Indonesian society.

Throughout the election campaign, the most extremist Islamic leaders tried to influence the vote by manipulating the religious sentiment of voters (pictured). This led to many street demonstrations, which often turned violent.

"They want to adopt laws inspired by Sharia, and their demands will become more and more radical," Sinta Wahid warned. This trend represents a serious threat to national unity and to the pluralist spirit on which the country was founded.

"The government must control and enforce content censorship,” Sinta Nuriyah Wahid said. “The government must look at people who play an important role in religious institutes and issue Islamic teachings to society. This must be done to ensure the national interest of Indonesian pluralism and block radicalism and fundamentalism.”

Finally, “radical groups have their own political agenda,” she explained, which is “to transform the present United Republic of Indonesia into the Islamic State of Indonesia, something that I personally oppose."

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