Indonesia, long considered a bastion of religious tolerance, is increasingly reverting to fundamentalism and intolerance, a non-governmental organization observed in its annual report on Tuesday.
Yenny Zanuba Wahid, the executive director of The Wahid Institute, said the organization recorded 196 cases of violence based on religious discrimination and intolerance in Indonesia during 2010. The figure was up from the 134 cases recorded in 2009.
“Violent acts that go against people’s right to freedom of religion are not only committed by the public or members of large civil society organizations, but also by the state through its regulations, and by local governments and police officers,” said Yenny.
The Wahid Institute’s annual report found that 72 percent of actors in cases of religious violence were from local governments, legislative councils, the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) and the police.
“The environment of increasing religious intolerance and discrimination in Indonesia is caused by unclear regulations,” Yenny said.
“Decentralization has allowed the state to become more repressive. There has been a decentralization of violence and intolerance,” she added.
Nurkholis, the deputy chairman of the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said the institution had recorded a record number of human right violations caused by police officers.
“The problem with the police officers is that sometimes they forget about the human aspect of their duty.” said Nurkholis.
“In many cases of religion-based violence, police bring in the victims for questioning first, rather than immediately going after the perpetrators,” Yenny said.
National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar said there are certain legal procedures that must be observed when dealing with violent incidents.
He said victims of violence were examined first because they were usually in a weaker position and needed to be protected. “That’s due legal process,” he said .
The Wahid Institute found that restrictions on freedom of religion and the complex regulations related to building houses of worship were responsible for the most cases of religious violence, at 44 cases.
The institute found of 133 cases of intolerance without violence, 83 percent involved civilian groups, which were responsible for 94 of the cases.
These organizations use religious jargon to justify their actions, Yenny said.
The institute’s research showed that the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and even the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) were the main culprits behind religious intolerance and discrimination across the country, she added.
Yenny said that victims of religious intolerance included individuals, church congregations, community groups and minority sects.
The Wahid Institute also monitored both government and society efforts to protect freedom of religion. The report found West Java was the country’s most intolerant region, followed by East Java