Saturday, March 5, 2011

United States Calls for Religious Tolerance in Indonesia

Jakarta Globe, Indonesia
United States Calls for Religious Tolerance in Indonesia
March 05, 2011

The United States on Friday called for religious tolerance in Indonesia after several provincial governments banned followers of a minority Islamic sect from practicing in public.

Some provincial administrations in the world’s most populous Muslim country issued a local decree which also banned Ahmadiyah members from showing signs identifying their mosques and schools.

The provincial regulations came after Islamist fanatics brutally murdered last month three Ahmadiyah adherents in Banten. Two days later another mob of enraged Muslims rampaged through the streets and set fire to churches in central Java.

“Recent violence against minority communities and new local regulations restricting religious freedom are damaging Indonesia’s international reputation as a democracy with a tradition of tolerance,” a United States Embassy statement said.

“As a friend of Indonesia, and as a partner in the G20 and other international organizations, we support the overwhelming majority of Indonesians who abhor religious violence and support tolerance,” it said.

“Laws should protect citizens from violence rather than restrict their rights.”

Police failed to intervene to protect the Ahmadiyah, who have been subjected to regular abuse and persecution since their sect was slapped with restrictions at the urging of mainstream Muslims in 2008.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned last month’s attacks but defended a 2008 law banning the Ahmadiyah sect from spreading their faith, which is used by hardliners to justify attacks on the sect.

Human rights activists say the ex-general has repeatedly failed to tackle sources of intolerance in the country of 240 million people, 80 percent of whom are Muslims.

Indonesia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion but rights groups say violence against minorities including Christians and Ahmadis has been escalating since 2008.

Agence France-Presse

Copyright 2010 The Jakarta Globe
^ Top of Page