Category Archives: Khabar Southeast Asia

Indonesian scholar fights for religious minority rights

Indonesian scholar fights for religious minority rights

slam in Indonesia is fundamentally non-radical, says Muslim intellectual Dawam Rahardjo. [Yosita Nirbhaya/Khabar]

slam in Indonesia is fundamentally non-radical, says Muslim intellectual Dawam Rahardjo. [Yosita Nirbhaya/Khabar]

“There is freedom of religion in this country, but unfortunately religious freedom tends to be a source of conflict among Indonesia’s religious groups,” Dawam Rahardjo says.

Scholar Dawam Rahardjo won the 2013 Yap Thiam Hien Award for championing the rights of Indonesia’s religious minorities. An economist by training, Dawam headed the All-Indonesia Association of Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI) from 1995 to 2000, and currently leads the Institute of Religious and Philosophical Studies (LSAF).

In an interview with Khabar Southeast Asia, Dawam recalls challenges he has faced as an advocate of tolerance, and shares his thoughts about religious freedom.

Khabar: What does freedom of religion mean to you?

Dawam: Equality and tolerance are two main keys to religious freedom. Indonesia is more than 80% Muslim but it has diverse religions and beliefs. This is captured in its constitution, “believe in the divinity of God”.

There is freedom of religion in this country, but unfortunately religious freedom tends to be a source of conflict among Indonesia’s religious groups.

Khabar: If freedom of religion exists in Indonesia, why is there religious conflict?

Dawam: It is because of the lack of communication between the religious groups.

There is a separation between them that often leads to misunderstandings, so it is important to build an open, respectful dialogue. That is what I have been fighting for all this time, by myself or through my organisation.

However … my outspoken approach has drawn threats and intimidation. I was fired from Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organisation, for defending the Ahmadiyah group, whose practices were denounced in 2006 as deviant from Islam.

Khabar: Recently, religious conflict tends to happen in Java. Why?

Dawam: Religious conflict in West Java targeted the Ahmadiyah group while the religious conflict in East Java has targeted the Shia group the past few years. Saudi Arabia, which is dominated by Sunni Islam, is funding a number of local organisations to influence the Muslim community and limit the ability of both Shia and Ahmadiyah to grow.

The Indonesian government is not brave enough to stop those interventions because Indonesia is dependent upon Saudi Arabia for the Hajj to Mecca and the employment of Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

Khabar: What does the world need to know about Islam in Indonesia?

Dawam: There are many interpretations of Islam, ranging from fundamentalism and conservatism to liberal and traditional. Islam in Indonesia is not radical.

The fundamentalist group is in the minority, but they are brazen enough to speak out with their actions. However, sometimes we have to wonder whether they understand what they are doing, because some of them are being paid to join demonstrations, and they do not understand why they are there.

Khabar: What is the root of Indonesian radicalism?

Dawam: Radicalism is triggered by poverty. Fundamentalist groups allegedly pay poor people to perpetrate religious attacks to alter public perception.

Those poor people do not support the issue being protested; they just care about being paid. If the economic problem were fixed, the growth of radicalism would slow down or even stop. But that is a big homework assignment for the government.

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New MataMassa app empowers regular people to help monitor elections

New MataMassa app empowers regular people to help monitor elections

by: Yositha Nirbhaya

Free mobile application encourages citizens to monitor violations during the election, inviting greater engagement in the democratic process.

A smartphone app offers greater Jakarta area residents a way to help ensure free and fair upcoming 2014 general elections.

The Jakarta branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the ICT Laboratory for Social Changes (iLab) launched MataMassa (“Eyes of the Public”) in November as a way for citizens to monitor and anonymously report administrative, criminal or ethical violations during voting or campaigning.

Those could include installation of campaign banners in houses of worship, highways, or hospitals; vote buying; or other violations as defined by the General Election Committee (KPU) and the Election Supervisory Committee (Bawaslu).

Nelson Simanjuntak, Bawaslu committee commissioner, said the app encourages direct societal participation of the process.

“It needs to be understood that MataMassa really helps us improve the 2014 election,” he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Users can download MataMassa for free and use it to submit a report of a violation by text, photo or video to AJI Jakarta. Project personnel investigate and submit verified reports to Bawaslu.

Between December 15th last year and March 13th, MataMassa received 1,249 reports, and verified 1,154 of them, according to AJI. Because of limited funding, project personnel could only verify violations in Jakarta and outskirts including Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi, AJI Jakarta Chairman Umar Idris told Khabari.

Direct participation

Renanda Laksita, a Partai Demokrat candidate for the House of Representatives (DPR) wished the app could be more widely used.

“I think this is a new innovation to invite society to participate in our democratic process, as we know that many Indonesian people love to use gadgets. I hope society takes advantage of it,” the candidate from Bali told Khabar.

“It would be better if it is applicable all over Indonesia than greater Jakarta only,” she added.

Stefani Bilwa tried, but failed to submit a violation in the form of a massive poster of a candidate in Setiabudi.

“Unfortunately, I was unlucky in submitting it directly through my iPhone,” she told Khabar. “Therefore I have to submit it through the website, which is not as efficient.” Still, Stefani liked the idea of the app to help deliver a fair election.

Reports can also be submitted through SMS center to 081370202014 or via email at lapor@matamassa.org for people without a smartphone or the app.

Indonesian candidates add social media to campaign arsenals

Indonesian candidates add social media to campaign arsenals

Yosita Nirbhaya

The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy's (Elsam) Wahyudi Djafar speaks at the "Challenges to Freedom of Expression in the Online World" forum in Jakarta on January 21st. [Yosita Nirbhaya/Khabar]

The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy’s (Elsam) Wahyudi Djafar speaks at the “Challenges to Freedom of Expression in the Online World” forum in Jakarta on January 21st. [Yosita Nirbhaya/Khabar]

Candidates are using twitter, Facebook and other social networks for the electoral pushes

Politicians running in the 2014 Indonesian elections are not relying solely on traditional campaigning to win votes.

Hopefuls in the legislative and presidential races are going online and reaching out to Indonesia’s huge social media audience, using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to spread their messages.

One voter who has been getting to know the candidates via social media, is university student Abimata Putra, 23.

“I think knowing the character and the profile of political candidates is very important. They will make decisions and regulations for society, including for me,” he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Among Twitter-savvy candidates are Prabowo Subianto, presidential contender from the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and Wiranto, one of his rivals in the July 9th election, who represents the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura). Respectively, the two use “@prabowo08” and “@wiranto1947” as Twitter handles.

Gerindra’s account has more than 147,000 followers, according to Setyoko, a member of the party’s online media team. He created the account to interact with supporters, he told Khabar.

“Social media gives politicians and political parties a chance to have a direct interaction with constituents,” said Wahyudi Djafar, a representative of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam).”They must pay attention to the use of social media, and where it should reflect the principles of democracy.”

Indonesia’s online boom

Politicians and their parties are trying to reach voters via the Internet and mobile phone-driven social media networks exploding in Indonesia.

According to the Indonesian Association of Internet Service Providers (APJII), 62 million Indonesians – nearly a quarter of the total population – used the Internet regularly in 2013.

And according to January 2014 statistics from wearesocial.net, 62 million are social media users– 52 million of whom rely on mobile phones to access social media networks.

Although Indonesia ranks among the top five countries for social media penetration, according to government data, Internet use is less evenly distributed across the archipelago.

The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology says that 70% of Internet users are concentrated on Java, mostly in the Jakarta area.

Young people and members of the country’s middle class are primary users of social media, activist Enda Nasution told Khabar. Twitter, Facebook and other networks allow Indonesians to express themselves and also obtain free access to online information, Enda said.

Victims of violence hope to change terrorist mindset

Victims of violence hope to change terrorist mindset

Sudirman Abdul Talib, 31, a victim of the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing, believes some terrorists do not understand the impact of their actions. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar]

Sudirman Abdul Talib, 31, a victim of the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing, believes some terrorists do not understand the impact of their actions. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar]

Those who have suffered at the hands of violent extremists believe some recruits will be moved to repent once they understand how terrorism destroys lives.

Victims of terrorism gathered on Sunday (September 8th) to commemorate a tragic episode in Jakarta’s recent history – namely, the 9th anniversary of the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing, which killed nine people and wounded at least 150 others.

“Many people might have forgotten [about the incident]. But I think it is important to make them aware that the terrorists’ victims do exist, and we are still struggling with the aftermath of the attacks,” said Mulyono Sutrisman, chairman of the Kuningan Forum, an association of people who have been affected by extremist violence.

Such atrocities must not happen again, he said at the event, which was sponsored by Alliance for Peaceful Indonesia (AIDA)

Sudirman Abdul Talib, 31, is a former security guard at the embassy. He lost his left eye in the attack and suffers from a permanent disability affecting both of his hands.

“As victims, we want to be involved in the government’s deradicalisation programme, in eliminating terrorism and preventing the growth of violent extremism in Indonesia,” Sudirman told Khabar Southeast Asia.

He believes that if all victims are united against terrorism and promote peace, it will make a difference in the future.

“We just want to be involved in making Indonesia more peaceful,” he added.

Sudirman, who now works as an administrative staff member for the security guard department, says he does not want to become a prisoner of the trauma he experienced. He believes his story can be used to change the minds of those who have been misled by violent and extremist groups.

“I have met a few former convicted terrorists. I told them about the impact of the terrorism. They were shocked and cried. They regretted their actions and apologised,” Sudirman said. “It is clear to see that sharing and explaining the impact of terrorism on the victims is an effective method to convince them [terrorists] to stop their actions.”

A crucial role in combating extremist notions

The director of AIDA, Hasibullah Satrawi, said that Indonesia has the potential to win the battle against terrorism – not only because of law enforcement efforts, but also because victims of terrorism have been willing to join in efforts to combat it.

“The victims play a strategic role in bringing Indonesia to a more peaceful place,” he said. Therefore, it is very important to empower the victims – whether mentally, physically, or financially.”

Al Chaidar, a terrorism analyst, agreed that those affected by violence have great potential to combat recruitment by extremist groups. He agreed that the government should involve victims of terrorist activity in deradicalisation programmes.

“By meeting and seeing the victims, the terrorists would consider the actions that they are going to take because they have seen the impact of their attacks,” he added.

Sudirman, the wounded security guard, says he is troubled that his hometown of Bima, in West Nusa Tenggara, is being appropriated by terrorists as a base for planning their attacks. In 2011, police raided the local Umar bin Khattab Muslib Boarding School, where they found bomb-making materials as well as weapons and jihadist videos.

“Bima is a very religious place,” Sudirman said. Muslims pray five times a day and have strong faith. As far as I know, they are not radical people. They need moderate religious leaders to tell them that Islam is actually a religion of peace,” he said.

Those vulnerable to the message of radical terrorists need to be aware of the consequences of violence, he reiterated. “They need to meet people just like us to show them the impact of terrorist acts. It is also hurting Muslims as well,” Sudirman said.

Indonesians reject public broadcast of hardline views

Indonesians reject public broadcast of hardline views

TVRI is widely criticised for airing footage of a Hizbut Tahrir leader rejecting democracy, religious freedom and nationalism.

Indonesia’s public broadcaster was forced to apologise last month after it aired hardline views of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) rejecting Pancasila and democracy, causing a public outcry.

On June 6th, Television of the Republic of Indonesia (TVRI) aired edited, one-hour footage of an HTI congress that took place four days earlier in Jakarta, with the theme “Change the World through Khilafah”.

In the broadcast, Farid Wajdi, chairman of the central board of HTI, was seen stating that democracy is a form of kufur (denial of God) because its fundamental principle is liberalism, and that freedom of religion had created a number of cults that should not be protected.

In conclusion, he argued that democracy and nationalism must be left behind and replaced by aKhilafah Islamiyah system (Caliphate).

The programme drew broad outrage, from religious leaders, activists and common people.

“How come TVRI aired a hardline Islamic group meeting, which clearly rejected Pancasila and democracy?” Imdadun Rahmat, deputy secretary general of the moderate Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, told Khabar Southeast Asia.

“TVRI has bigger obligations than a private broadcasting company. It has an obligation to promote the values of Pancasila and promote the Indonesian motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity),” he said.

Going further, Imdadun argued that TVRI should raise awareness in civil society about the dangers of transnational radical organisations such as HTI – especially when those organisations openly reject Pancasila democracy.

Neutral and independent

Tutik Werdani, a 34 year-old Jakarta resident, agreed.

“TVRI is public television. The public paid for it. But why do they provide a special space to an organisation which rejects Pancasila? This could mislead Indonesian viewers about our national ideology,” she told Khabar.

“TVRI should be neutral and independent. If it wanted to air the HTI congress, it should also present counter-opinions” on topics such as democracy and pluralism, Nurvina Alifa, an advocacy co-ordinator at media watchdog group Remotivi, told Khabar.

An alliance of 14 civil society organisations including the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace and the Moderate Muslim Society issued a statement protesting the broadcast.

“Our protest is not intended to neglect freedom of expression. But this is a protest of people who believe in law enforcement and freedom of expression,” the statement read.

Restricting speech is justified when that restriction leads to greater freedom in society, the group argued.

Consequences for TVRI

In the midst of the fallout, on June 10th, Irwan Hendarmin, TVRI’s director of programmes and news, appeared before the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) to provide clarification.

According to KPI’s official website, Irwan apologised to all parties and Indonesian citizens, on behalf of TVRI, for the mistake. “It is a lesson for us in the near future,” Irwan told the KPI.

On June 21st, KPI issued administrative sanctions requiring TVRI to air a statement five times a day for the next three days.

“TVRI is carrying out the request of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission to ensure that the contents of its broadcasts uphold Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, and the Broadcasting Law (UU No 32/2002),” the statement read.

“We received many public complaints about the programme from various elements of society,” Commissioner Nina Mutmainnah told Khabar regarding the HTI broadcast.

“It is because the programme showed a number of speeches that obviously rejected Pancasila and the implementation of democracy in Indonesia.”

Of the sanctions, she said, “It is a lesson for TVRI and for other broadcasting companies in Indonesia. They must follow broadcasting regulations and make sure that they do not harm public interests.”

Ali Fauzi: from terrorism to true Islam

Ali Fauzi: from terrorism to true Islam

By Andhika Bhakti and Elisabeth Oktofani for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

A former bomb-maker and weapons smuggler is now an ambassador of peace.

Ali Fauzi once taught people to make bombs. Today, he is one of the few former militants who now devotes himself to telling the public about the harm terrorism inflicts.

In April and May, he accompanied Ansyaad Mbai, head of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) to several cities, speaking freely about his past and explaining how terrorism defiles Islam.

Detonating bombs in public places kills many innocent people, including children, he explained. Terrorist networks steal money to purchase bomb-making materials. Worst of all, he said, they don’t take responsibility for their attacks, leaving other people to be accused.

“You can’t be secretive. There has to be a leader who takes responsibility,” he said at a BNPT event in Balikpapan, Kalimantan, according to a Jawa Pos News Network (JPNN) report.

Roving jihadi

The 42-year-old native of Lamongan, East Java is the youngest brother of Amrozi and Ali Ghufron, both convicted and executed for their roles in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people and injured hundreds.

From 1994 to 2006, Ali Fauzi was a roving jihadi, joining the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Southern Philippines, and Muslim-Christian violence in Ambon and Poso.

In 1998-1999, he was an instructor at a Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant camp in East Java, where he taught nearly 250 people about how to make bombs.

“Back then I was an instructor for a field engineering class at an East Java training camp. I taught them about chemical materials and firing devices for bomb making,” he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

From 1999-2002, in Ambon and in Poso, he became a field co-ordinator for Crisis Management and Prevention Committee (KOMPAK), a JI-linked group with humanitarian aims.

During this time, he began to sour on JI, realising its doctrine was not consistent with Sharia Islam, since it permitted violence against civilians.

“I really never agreed with any jihads involving attacking/bombing churches in conflict areas, exploding nightclubs in Bali or hotels in Jakarta,” he explained.

He called many of those violent acts a “wrong jihad.”

“Many wrong jihads would kill innocent people. It also created a bad image for Muslims. Additionally, it is not a jihad because Indonesia is not a jihad ground,” he added.

Smuggling weapons

Ali described how easy it was for him and his comrades to move weapons around the region to supply Muslims fighting Christians in Ambon and Poso.

He said he dressed as a migrant worker to cross to Sabah in eastern Malaysia, using a fishing boat in the dark. “You don’t need a passport. I didn’t carry one. For the security, it is really hard to confirm your ID and your face in the dark,” he told Khabar.

“We packed the guns into large backpacks and travelled on fishing boats or petrol tankers heading for Indonesia from the Philippines,” he added.

“The route from Sabah to Southern Philippines is a favourite route for many militant fighters in Southeast Asia. It is the same route used by Indonesian militants to escape the country,” BNPT chief Ansyaad told Khabar. He said a regional approach among Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines is needed to address the problem.

Many friends, many perspectives

Ali was active with the MILF from 2003-2006. But since then, he has lived a life of peace, and made friends with many different people.

“I have many friends, who are Christian, Hindu, and Chinese. I am cool with them. All we need is to respect each other,” he said.

A father of five, Ali is active in farming and teaching. He serves as a lecturer at The School of Tarbiyah at Muhammadiyah University and at Al Islam boarding school, both in Lamongan, East Java.

He teaches on the need for unity among followers of Islam. According to him, Islam accommodates many different perspectives. “It needs to be understood that different views in Islam have existed for a very long time and cannot be avoided,” he said.

“Therefore, we need to respect each other’s point of view…If we cannot do so, that is the root of radicalism,” Ali explained.

He emphasised his faith in Islam will never fade. Although he rejects radicalism and terrorist acts, he says he is still a “mujahid” who defends Islam through dakwah (missionary work) and preaching.

True defender of Islam

Ali’s story has inspired many people. Precisely because of the years he spent on the wrong path, he has credibility in pointing out the right one.

“I wish in the future that there will be more people like Ali Fauzi – someone who decides to do jihad in a good way by using his personal experience when he was a member of JI,” said Hanung Wicaksono, a Muslim cleric in West Jakarta.

“We need more people like Ali, who is now defending Islam in a good way,” he added.

“I was reading a recent profile in the media about Ali Fauzi. I am pretty amazed with his experiences, and I am glad he decided to convert from a trainer in militant camps to an educator. It is a good change,” said Bambang Setiyono, a 23-year-old in Tangerang, Jakarta.

Indonesia needs more people like Fauzi to “help the Indonesian government tackle terrorism and to begood examples for those who value jihad in the wrong way,” Bambang said.

“He is now an ambassador of peace.”

Aceh women say they suffer discrimination

Aceh women say they suffer discrimination

Norma Manalu, an activist from Aceh, speaks at a June 4th gathering about women's rights in Aceh, at Hotel Acacia in Jakarta. [Elisabeth Oktofani /Khabar].

Norma Manalu, an activist from Aceh, speaks at a June 4th gathering about women’s rights in Aceh, at Hotel Acacia in Jakarta. [Elisabeth Oktofani /Khabar].

Activists say they are not against Sharia Law but question the way it is being implemented

Despite the 2005 peace pact that ended 30 years of bloody conflict in Aceh, life in the province has not improved for women and children since then.

That was the stark message conveyed by a panel of women activists from Indonesia’s westernmost province, who were in Jakarta June 4th to present findings on violence against women in Aceh from 2011-2012.

During that time, there were 1,060 cases of violence against women, according to the 231 Monitoring Network, a coalition of women’s rights groups based in Aceh.

The name refers to Article 231, on women empowerment and child protection, of Law No. 11 2006, which allowed Aceh to implement Sharia Law under its special autonomy status.

The coalition argues that women have been victimised, not protected, as a result of the imposition of Sharia law in Aceh. They face difficulty accessing justice, stigmatisation, intimidation and violence.

The activists stressed, however, that they are not against Sharia itself. It is the way it is being implemented that is raising questions.

“The implementation of Sharia Law should be able to restore proper justice and improve social welfare to its citizens, which we did not get during the conflict,” Samsidar, an activist from the Aceh Women’s Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Apik Aceh), told Khabar Southeast Asia.

“On top of that, it should protect women and children in Aceh,” she added.

Cruel and humiliating punishments

The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), which hosted the gathering, has identified 282 regional regulations (Perda) that discriminate against women in various parts of Indonesia.

In Aceh, Komnas Perempuan has identified 15 such regulations. Violating them can lead to cruel and humiliating punishments such as beatings, canings, being bathed in sewage water, and forced marriages, the group said.

“Many regulations are established to promote religious values and morality. But their implementation tends to violate human rights which are protected by the Indonesian Constitution,” Komnas Perempuan Commissioner Andy Yentriyani said.

Aziana Rambe, the secretary general of Women Volunteers for Humanity (RPuK), told reporters that some regulations merely serve to distract local people from more important issues.

A new bylaw forbidding tight outfits for women in Meulaboh, West Aceh, diverts attention from the government’s failure to provide housing for 2004 tsunami victims in Meulaboh, she charged.

If the local government were properly implementing Sharia Law, “they would focus on how to improve Islamic public service and social welfare for Aceh citizens,” Aziana argued.

She said they would neither focus on the women’s outfits nor women’s dancing.

Pro-democracy and pro-Islam

In Aceh, those who criticise authorities are quickly labeled anti-Sharia or anti-Islam. The activists, however, say that is not true.

“As Acehnese, why would we speak something bad about Aceh and still want to return to Aceh at the end of the day?” Norma Manalu, an activist from the Women’s Shura Hall of Aceh (BSUIA), told the forum.

“We want Aceh to be safe. We want to go home without violence or discrimination anymore. We just want to live peacefully with our families in Aceh,” she explained in tears.

“We are not against the government. But if something is wrong, we should tell the government and provide them with some inputs,” said Suraiya Khamauzaman, founder of the Flower Aceh Foundation. “It is very important for the government and civil society to work together to meet our goal in eradicating discrimination against women and also improving social welfare.”

The women made it clear they embrace both democracy and Islam. “Indonesia is a democratic country, and Aceh is part of Indonesia. Therefore, we believe that there is a democratic space in Aceh as well,” Samsidar said.

“Even though there are many risks ahead of us, we want to use our right as Indonesian citizens to make our voices heard. It needs to be understood that Islam is a religion of justice, a religion of love, and cares about other people. Islam is a religion of equality and peace,” she added.