Last week, Indonesians were shocked by the revelation that several public school textbooks contain hardline religious teachings. We obtained a copy of “Pendidikan Agama Islam dan Budi Pekerti” and noticed the second paragraph of page 170 stating, “Yang boleh disembah hanyalah Allah SWT dan orang yang menyembah selain Allah Swt telah menjadi musyrik dan boleh dibunuh”, which in English means, “Only Allah SWT should be worshiped and those worshiping Allah SWT perform idolatry and can therefore be killed.” [Continue reading]
There’s today a newfound excitement over akik stones in Indonesia. In general akiks are stone of the agate variety. Most of them are so cheap and readily available they’re sold by many street vendors over the years. But not all akiks are equal, with some considered as gemstones—stones with rare mineral qualities—and others invaluable because of their perceived mystical qualities. [Continue reading]
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.
Muslim and Christian leaders from 16 Asian countries pledged to work side by side to tackle present-day problems in the region at a recent conference here, grounding their common vision in religious teachings both share.
“Asia is currently facing serious problems of poverty and environmental degradation,” M. Nashihin Hasan, executive director of the International Conference of Islamic Scholars (ICIS), told Khabar Southeast Asia.
“Here, we are trying to find a solution based on religious values, and not secularism,” he added.
ICIS organised the four-day Conference of Muslim-Christian Religious Leaders of Asia, together with Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) and The Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI).
Both the Qur’an and the Bible teach love of God and love of one’s neighbour. That shared teaching “provides a common ground for Muslims and Christians to work together for peace and harmony in this violence-torn world today”, a conference statement said.
Held February 26th-March 1st at Jakarta’s Hotel Acacia, the gathering was attended by 120 Indonesians and 55 religious leaders from 16 countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, India and Malaysia.
Many participants stressed the need for dialogue among believers of different religions as a means to foster a culture of harmony and peace in Asia.
Religious leaders need to come together on a regular basis on the local level, and to have a clear process of identifying common problems, Monsignor Felix Machado, archbishop of Vasai, India, told the forum on its opening day.
“This collaboration must be founded on the rejection of fanaticism, extremism and mutual antagonisms which lead to violence,” he said. “Education is also an important tool to promote mutual understanding, co-operation and respect.”
The growing gap between rich and poor was another common theme.
“I often heard various problems which could be identified as social and economic injustice in Asia as the result of modern prosperity only enjoyed by a few people, while many are exploited and marginalised,” Bishop Felix said.
The importance of dialogue
The chairman of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organisation, told Khabar he appreciated the event and hoped it would be fruitful.
Both Islam and Christianity value humanity and both “have a significant role in developing and anticipating the dynamic of Asia as the future of the world,” Din Syamsuddin told Khabar outside Istiqlal Mosque, during a visit there by conference participants.
Dialogue among moderate religious leaders is important to push the government to take serious action on eradicating religious conflict, he said. He voiced hope that in the future, the conference would also invite religious leaders from fundamentalist groups, so their voices can be heard.
Afghan participant Fazalghani Kakar said he wants to apply what he learned in his home community.
“Although we don’t have many religions in Afghanistan …. This conference is very important for us because we are all aware that Afghanistan has been in war these past three decades,” he said.
“We also need dialogue to get a mutual understanding both technically and also professionally to create tolerance among us,” Fazalghani said.
A path of moderation
In their concluding statement participants pledged to renew efforts to promote peace and justice, prevent violence and facilitate dialogue in situations of conflict.
“We believe that if human dignity is respected, human values are promoted and the path [to] dialogue remains open, conflict can be avoided in every circumstance,” it said. “…A path of moderation and a pedagogy of persuasion are more in keeping with the Asian genius than the use of force or mutual denunciation.”
Conference participants understood such goals cannot be instantly achieved.
“We do not want to be in a rush,” Nashihin, of ICIS, said. “Perhaps, we would hold another meeting within three years to see the result of the implementation of our agreement.”