Religious-based Populism: A Challenge to Maintain Religious-Pluralism, Peace, and Security in Indonesia

Since the Reformation era, the Indonesian government has encouraged substantial democratization and political freedom that has led to the ‘liberation euphoria’, in which people can freely express their aspirations and interests. Although greater freedom of expression, association and assembly positively contributed to the quality of democracy, it also caused issues as it led to the establishment of many organizations, some of which could potentially harm religious pluralism and peace and security in Indonesia.

In recent years, populism has been used among politicians and organizations in Indonesia by instrumentalizing religious belief into political campaigns. The occurrence of Front Pembela Islam (FPI), through its ‘strict interpretation’ of Islam is an example of how an organization can signify populism.  For instance, in 2017, ‘the 212 movement’ which was endorsed by FPI, managed to influence public opinion and mobilized a movement to voice the idea that Basuki Thahja Purnama or Ahok (who was a vice-presidential candidate along with Jokowi then) must be arrested due to blasphemy against Islam. Since then, Muslims in Indonesia have been drawn in a dynamic and sometimes turbulent politization of their identity.  

The two big Islamic non-political organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, which are known for their long-standing contribution to promote religious tolerance in the country, have also been struggling to navigate the impact of this sociocultural turbulence on a grass-root level caused by the 212 movement. In due course, the FPI was officially banned in December 2020 by the Indonesian government, because of the group was being in conflict with the nation’s state ideology, Pancasila, which emphasizes unity and diversity.

Some experts believe that banning the FPI will not be effective enough to mitigate this issue, and more likely to: ‘radicalize’ its members and sympathizers, thus add more ‘nuisance’ on a grass-root level. It is not easy to reconcile the principle Freedom of Association with the equally important need to protect minorities and constrain violence in society as an essential element in the Rule of Law.  Will these series of events in the past years amplify the segregation between the moderate and the extremist streams among Muslims in Indonesia? Who will get the most benefit if this segregation becomes more prominent in the long run? How can we reconcile the segregated factions within the biggest Muslim population in the world to secure sociocultural stability and ensure pluralism?

During the 2018 Indonesia-Netherlands Legal Update (INLU), a discussion took place on ‘Law and Human Rights to promote Inclusivity’. This Orange Talk expresses the continued importance and interest to reflect on how to achieve SDG16 in Indonesia?


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Diperbaharuai terakhir 2021-03-08 18:18