Hivos International


Weak State Helps Extremism in Indonesia

Article by Pluralism Programme associate Mohammad Iqbal Ahnaf, originally published on

What can the Indonesian state do to counter radicalization? The government does not have to return to the past authoritarianism by banning radical organizations. What matters more for a strong state is consistent law enforcement against extreme activities. These include both physical activities such as violence against minorities and non-physical activities such as speeches or publications that fuel sectarian hatred.

Adversaries of religious tolerance not just radical religious groups, but also local authorities

First published in Jakarta Post, January 18, 2012

Improving peaceful coexistence between majority and minority religious  groups in contemporary Indonesia remains an uphill challenge for the  country’s commitment to religious freedom. The role of the state is  crucial in nurturing this relationship.

Islamic thugs attack academic debate on liberal Islam - and university backs down

Response by Zainal Abidin Bagir to the cancellation of Irshad Manji book launch.

That Irshad Manji was denied permission to set foot for the second  time on the grounds of Gadjah Mada University (May 9, 2012) must make  us, especially those of us in academia, think again. There is no need to  hide the fact that the cancellation of this event was precipitated by  threats from some mass organizations, although it is not always clear  exactly who they are.  Doesn’t this make us think about the future of the academic environment here at Gadjah Mada University?

This research seeks to examine the factors that play a role in initiating and resolving conflict over places of worship. Places of worship are specifically limited in this study to Catholic churches and Protestant churches that are members of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (Persekutuan Gereja-gereja di Indonesia, PGI).

The link between politics and religion is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, they have overlapped and intersected in complex and various forms and under different circumstances in locations all over the world. Their interaction has continuously led to diverse and changing outcomes, thereby reflecting relations of power at local, national and international levels. The conceptualization of ‘the secular’ too can be understood against this fluid background.

The idea for this paper originated under special circumstances in the context of the international Promoting Pluralism Knowledge Programme. For several reasons, the relationship between the state and religion became a prominent issue in the regional programmes of India and Indonesia. Prompted by this development, we invited the prominent scholar Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im to participate in a seminar in May 2009, to discuss his ideas on Islam and the secular state with the participating academics and practitioners in the Knowledge Programme.

This working paper presents two interesting examples of ‘practices of pluralism’ in Indonesia. The authors work in the NGO sector and participate in the Regional Team of the Promoting Pluralism Knowledge program in Indonesia.
Both describe their engagement with the challenges they meet when trying to effectively promote pluralism in local communities.

Human rights organisations in India have consistently felt unable to respond to religious polarization and communal violence. While their efforts in combating the Hindu revivalist extremism did result in occasional ‘success stories’, more often they were too little to the enormity of the challenge. Sitharamam Kakarala, associated with the Pluralism Knowledge Programme, analyses the challenges to human rights activism in India and offers some ideas for new strategies.

Two people describe how their personal journeys as Muslims in India and their research has made them think differently about identity, social justice and change. Ansari tells about his feelings after the demolition of the Babri Masjid (mosque) in 1992 (followed by large scale violence between Hindu and Muslims): “… I was raised in a very secular environment, as my family was not particularly religious during my youth. I could not really make sense of what had happened. I didn’t actually find the incident very disturbing.

Raising people’s awareness of their ‘ right to be different’ in an African context might not work that well, argue Drani Although the concept of the family is changing and individual choice and aspirations are increasingly being negotiated, ‘ modern life’  is not necessarily being regarded as progress. Globalisation and individualisation are often mentioned in conjunction with the trend of (urban) parents spending more time on their careers, education and work-related relationships than with their children.