Sydney Morning Herald
Indonesia has experienced a "sharp uptick" in religiously motivated violence, with Islamic gangs regularly attacking Christian churches as well as "deviant sects" of their own faith, a strongly worded new report has warned.
The report by Human Rights Watch warns that the Indonesian Government, police and military are "passively, and sometimes actively" condoning these new extremists, in contrast to the way they "wrestled to the ground" the terrorists of Jemaah Islamiah in the past decade.
The organization accuses Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of responding "weakly" to the threat, with "lofty but empty rhetoric."
"With JI they saw a clear and present danger," said Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, Phelim Kine.
"Now, the government is failing to recognize this less spectacular but equally corrosive and dangerous strain of religious intolerance." Mr Kine said there were "worrying echoes" of Pakistan's state of siege against minority Islamic sects, and if intolerance and violence continued to increase in Indonesia, "the confidence of investors in the country...might not hold."
The report, In Religion's Name, says there were 264 violent attacks on religious minorities in 2012, a 20 percent increase on 2010. It documents violence against the Ahmadiya, a minority sect of Islam which Indonesia's Religious Affairs Ministry has declared "heretical," and Shiite Muslims, as well as atheists and moderate Muslims. Since 2005, more than 430 churches have been forced to close.
But Wahyu, a spokesman for Indonesia's Religious Affairs minister, Suryadharma Ali, denied the thrust of the report, saying Indonesia was "the example, or the laboratory of religious harmony".
"It has the best religious harmony in the world. We can judge that because...we make all big days of the recognized religions in Indonesian holidays," Wahyu said.
Neither Mr Yudhoyono's office nor the police would comment before the report was released.
Many acts of violence were committed by a number of hardline groups such as the aggressive Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which emerged from the Sunni Islam majority after the fall of former president Suharto in 1998, the report says.
FPI recruits among the poor and disenfranchised and might be able to field 100,000 supporters. It was allegedly set up by police during unrest in 1998 to attack protesting students. Its official events have since been attended by the former governor of Jakarta, the national police chief and the religious affairs minister.
The country guarantees religious freedom in the constitution, but 156 statutes, regulations, decrees and by-laws subject "minority religions to official discrimination", They include the 1965 blasphemy law, the 2006 ministerial decree on building houses of worship and the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyah decree.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 02/28/2013
Editor's Note: Remember, this is the country that a young Barry Soetoro (Barack Obama) discovered that the Islamic "call to prayer" was the most beautiful sound he has ever come to know...
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