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Indonesian App Allows Public to Report ‘Deviant’ Religious Groups

Rina Chadijah
Jakarta
2018-11-26
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Minority religious leaders from Christian, Shia and Ahmadiyah communities march toward Indonesia’s parliament building in Jakarta to protest what they said was the government’s failure to guarantee freedom of religion, April 8, 2013.
Minority religious leaders from Christian, Shia and Ahmadiyah communities march toward Indonesia’s parliament building in Jakarta to protest what they said was the government’s failure to guarantee freedom of religion, April 8, 2013.
AFP

Indonesian human rights groups warned on Monday that a mobile application released by the Jakarta Prosecutor’s Office to monitor “deviant” faiths could worsen the persecution of religious minorities.

The Smart Pakem app,  released on Friday, contains a list of religious groups in the Jakarta area that are considered to have strayed from mainstream Islam, including Ahmadiyah and Gafatar, and allows members of the public to report on the activities of such groups.

“The application could lead to the persecution of people who are considered to have different beliefs. Because of that, we urge the Jakarta Prosecutor’s Office to delete it,” Muhammad Isnur, coordinator of the Indonesan Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), told BenarNews.

Isnur said minority religious groups had already been persecuted, forced from their homes and in some cases killed for beliefs that are considered “misguided.”

In most cases, they were victims of false and misleading information, he said.

"It is not impossible that some people will use this application to make false reports that could lead to violence against people," Isnur said. “This is dangerous.”

‘Information is needed’

The Jakarta Prosecutor’s Office said that the application was intended to keep tabs on and facilitate the supervision of activities by different religious groups.

"[N]owadays there are many religiously-motivated conflicts, so information is needed on various religious beliefs and faiths,” the head of intelligence at the prosecutor’s office, Yulianto, was quoted as saying by Detik.com.

The app also features fatwas issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), as well as a list of non-religious organizations and their legal status.

"This application accepts public complaints if it finds indications of religious groups or mass organizations that are deviant," said Nirwan Nawawi, a spokesman for the Jakarta Prosecutor’s Office.

The application was available for download on Android mobile phones and had garnered 11 reviews.

One user criticized the application, calling it "provocative."

"I do not understand why the prosecutor’s office deals with religious issues. Why is the Ahmadiyah not Islam? I think it is more relevant if this application contains articles on perpetrators of attacks against Ahmadiyah," wrote Destanto Prasetyo.

In one of the worst recent attacks against minority religious sects, three people were killed in 2011 when a crowd of hardline Muslims armed with machetes stormed into a house in Cikeusik, West Java, where Ahmadiyah followers were staying.

The attackers received sentences of 3-6 months in prison.

A pretext for violence?

Indonesia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the government recognizes only six official religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. More than 87 percent of Indonesians are Sunni Muslims.

Indonesia’s criminal code outlaws deviations from the central tenets of these religions, as do numerous local laws and regulations, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

The Ahmadis on Lombok island have been expelled from their homes and forced to seek refuge in a government building for years.

Members of the tiny Shia community have also been forced from their homes on Madura island off the coast of Java, following the objection of local Sunni Muslims.

They have lived in temporary shelters in Sidoarjo regency in East Java province for more than six years after an attack against them.

The spiritual movement Gerakan Fajar Nusantara, or Gafatar, was founded in 2011 but banned the following year. Its three top leaders were convicted of blasphemy in 2017 and given prison terms ranging from three to five years.

On Monday, Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) said it had written to the Prosecutor's Office asking it to immediately remove the application.

"There is potential for friction in society if this application is misinterpreted and used as a pretext to commit violence against certain religious groups and citizens," Komnas HAM Chairman Ahmad Taufan Damanik told BenarNews.

A Komnas HAM member, Choirul Anam, said the app was “counter-productive to the government’s efforts to build democracy.”

"The state shouldn’t meddle in the religious affairs of its citizens," Choirul said in a statement.

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