Indonesia's famous pop star Rhoma Irama was hailed by his fans for speaking out against Christians and Chinese in a mosque, Al Jazeera reports. Several preachers are also being accused of engaging in hate speech against Christian politicians in mosques.
Irama had to appear before Indonesia's election committee for statements he made about Christians. "If a Christian becomes a leader in our capital, Jakarta, in a country with a Muslim majority, we will be a disgrace in the eyes of the world," he said in a mosque. "Allah forbids us to elect a non-Muslim," he told reporters. "I have the duty to warn people, otherwise we will be heavily punished. We'll be Allah' enemies and we'll be punished in the afterlife." The election committee decided that Irama will not be punished for his statements.
An estimated 90 percent of Indonesia's population is Muslim. The nation's governing ideology states that all religious and ethnic groups are equal.
Andreas Yewangoe, head of Indonesia's Protestant Churches, told Al Jazeera, "According to our constitution, all Indonesians, regardless of their religion, have the right to become a leader. Of course a speech in a mosque not to vote for a non-Muslim leader is fine if Indonesia was an Islamic state. But Indonesia is not an Islamic state."
Hate speech in mosques as part of a political campaign has become a cheap way to win over voters. Al Jazeera secretly filmed a preacher saying that Muslims will be punished if they vote for a non-Muslim candidate.
Writing an opinion piece at The Jakarta Post, Sondang Grace Sirait opined,
This is the kind of backwater issue that is keeping Indonesia from moving ahead with its democratic and development agenda. Instead of measuring the nation’s resilience against global competitiveness, we’re reduced to a state of stagnant backwardness, masked in conservative interpretation of a religion.
Back in school, in the early 1990s, I was taught to memorize the meaning of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, a Majapahit-era phrase inscribed under the national symbol of Garuda Pancasila, even mentioned in the 1945 Constitution, resonating in the belief of “unity in diversity”.
My generation believed and lived in multiethnic harmony. We poked fun at someone’s language or accent, but never one’s faith. We called each other names, but never with prejudice.
Today’s Indonesia is far from such innocence.
These days we get tangled up in differentiating between conservatism and radicalism. Heightened religiosity means excessive displays of religion, at times accompanied by circumscribed interpretation that belittles anyone “different”.
It is a move against the moderates and the secularists, those who have the numbers but lack visibility. Religious-based organizations, acting more like hate groups, grow in confidence as they continue to evade the law and feed stories to the ratings-hungry media. Faith thus becomes a tool of force, used to create such polarizations as “you’re either with us or against us”.