There were reports of abuses of religious freedom, including reports of imprisonment and detention. The country has a long tradition of religious pluralism but certain laws, policies, and official actions restricted religious freedom. Due to inaction the government sometimes failed to prevent violence, abuse, and discrimination against individuals based on their religious belief.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported on continuing government abuses of religious freedom during the year. The Setara Institute, an Indonesia-based NGO that conducts advocacy and research on religious and political freedom, reported 145 cases of government abuses of religious freedom during the year, an increase of 40 cases over 2011. Setara also reported a difference in methodology from the previous year including expanding its research area to include six additional provinces and reporting types of violations not accounted for in last year’s report. Both Setara and the Wahid Institute, another Indonesia-based NGO that advocates for and carries out research related to good governance and religious harmony, noted inaction by security forces was the most common category of abuse by state actors. Both institutions also agreed government sealing of houses of worship was the second most common category of abuse by state actors.
Despite these abuses, the government did not prosecute victims of societal violence as it did in 2011. Rather, the government arrested and prosecuted ringleaders and some participants in the year’s most notable outbreaks of communal religious violence.
NGOs reported an increase in the government’s application of the blasphemy law. During the year, the government convicted 10 people under the law, up from four in 2011. According to NGO reports, since the blasphemy law was passed in 1965, the government has used it to convict 38 individuals of crimes related to blasphemy. More than half of all convictions under this law have occurred since 2009.
On July 12, the Sampang District Court sentenced Shia cleric Tajul Muluk to two years in prison for blasphemy following the issuance of a fatwa by a local Islamic clerical council that called his teaching deviant and Shia Islam heretical. Following an appeal by Muluk in September, the sentence was extended to four years. Among other offenses, the judges found Muluk guilty of telling his followers they did not need to pray five times each day.
There were also cases of forced mass resettlement of members of a religious group resulting from a failure to manage social conflict and discrimination. Authorities resettled approximately 300 of Muluk’s followers to a sports complex in Sampang following an attack against them by Sunni hard-liners. Government spokespeople said that the resettlement was for the group’s own protection. In November members of the group called for help from the central government, as the local government had stopped providing free food and water to the internally displaced persons. At year’s end, 198 of Muluk’s followers were still living in the sports complex.
Days after the resettlement of Muluk's followers, Minister of Religion Suryadharma Ali publicly expressed his belief that dialogue between the parties could lead the Shia to convert to “mainstream” Islam, thus removing the source of the conflict.
Government officials collaborated with hard-line Islamic groups against members of religious groups deemed “deviant.” For example , on July 8 police and local leaders in the village of Cisalopa, West Java, detained the leader of a fringe group of the At Tijaniyah sect of Islam and several of his followers. A group consisting of local government officials, police, military, members of the local conservative Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), and the hard-line group Islamic Reform Movement (GARIS) accused the leader, Sumarna, of presenting his followers with a deviant interpretation of Islam and encouraged the sect to return to mainstream Islam. On August 19, approximately 1,000 members of GARIS burned seven homes belonging to Sumarna and his followers. The attack followed the unsuccessful search for the missing GARIS leader, Ustad Edin Zainudin. Police responding to the scene discovered Zainudin’s body approximately 1,500 feet from Sumarna’s house and arrested Sumarna. According to reports by respected human rights groups, Zainuddin had frequently and vehemently criticized Sumarna and his group for their “deviant” teachings. At year’s end, the case against Sumarna was still pending. There were no arrests related to the attack on the sect members.
Atheism came under increased scrutiny during the year after the arrest and conviction of an atheist for allegedly inciting religious hatred with a posting on Facebook. On June 14, a court sentenced civil servant Alexander Aan to 30 months in prison for posting atheist statements and material that a local council of Muslim clerics deemed blasphemous on his Facebook page. Aan was convicted of violating the Information and Electronic Transaction Law, which forbids disseminating information designed to spread hatred toward or dissension among individuals and/or certain community groups on the basis of ethnicity, religion, or race. Following his conviction, Aan publicly renounced atheism and reportedly converted (back) to Islam. At year’s end he remained in prison.
Antonius Richmond Bawengan, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for blasphemy in February 2011, remained in prison at year’s end.
There were also cases of officially encouraged conversion. During a group conversion ceremony in November, 18 Shiites in Sampang converted to Sunni Islam under the observation of police and officials from the Sampang office of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The officials who were present reportedly reminded the Shiites that they could be attacked by their neighbors if they did not convert.
Cases related to government-sanctioned closures of houses of worship and the freedom to construct houses of worship involved members of local majority religious groups calling on local government officials to reexamine the licenses of existing or proposed houses of worship. In October officials in Banda Aceh, under pressure from the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), ordered the closure of nine Christian churches and six Buddhist temples. According to local government officials, these houses of worship, several of which had existed for more than a decade, failed to meet the requirements set forth in the 2006 decree governing the establishment of houses of worship. Local officials also stated that the local chapter of the FPI brought the congregations to their attention. Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi defended the closures, noting that it was a permit matter and not related to religion. Local government leaders encouraged members of the congregations to join other local churches and temples with similar beliefs.
Members of the Sunni majority experienced similar challenges in areas where they constituted a minority. After initially approving construction, the mayor of the predominantly Christian town of Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara ordered a halt to construction of Nur Musafir Mosque in 2011 after local hard-line Christian groups called for an investigation into the process by which the mosque obtained its permit. At year’s end, construction was still blocked and the site of the mosque had a temporary structure to accommodate Muslim worshippers for Friday prayers or the celebration of Muslim holidays.
In September the Supreme Court decided in favor of Radio Era Baru, a Chinese-language, Falun Gong-affiliated radio station that had been closed by authorities in September 2011. This ruling required the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to refrain from allowing any other parties to use the station’s old frequency while two other cases related to the closure were being adjudicated by the Supreme Court.
During the year a number of regional governments enforced decrees limiting or banning the free practice of Ahmadiyya Islam. These decrees were often vague in their language, which led to inconsistent enforcement by local authorities. For example, on October 25, members of the FPI in Bandung, West Java reported to local police that they had observed an Ahmadi Muslim congregation preparing for the ritual slaughter of animals that is part of the observance of the Eid-ul-Adha holiday. The FPI members and police returned to the Ahmadi mosque and arrested three members of the congregation. Police and the FPI reportedly worked together in an attempt to coerce the Ahmadi Muslims to sign admissions of guilt for violating a 2011 gubernatorial decree that limited their right to practice and defined “spreading the sect” as any public display of their faith. Upon the Ahmadi Muslims’ refusal to do so, the FPI members returned to the mosque and vandalized it. Provincial-level police then encouraged the previously detained Ahmadiyya congregation members to file criminal complaints against the FPI for damaging their property, resulting in the arrest of a local FPI leader.
Police appeared to act in concert with the FPI and other hard-line groups on other occasions. On May 4, Canadian author Irshad Manji attempted to hold a discussion of her book Allah, Liberty, and Love in Jakarta. Following public statements by the FPI condemning the work and attacking Manji for being a lesbian, police and FPI broke up the event. A subsequent discussion was dispersed by Sunni hard-liners in Yogyakarta, as police stood by.
Disability access was an issue for religious buildings and houses of worship, as it was for many buildings throughout the country. The government did not effectively enforce laws requiring accessibility, in effect restricting the ability of persons with disabilities to practice their religion.
The civil registration system continued to discriminate against persons not belonging to one of the six recognized religious groups. Animists, Bahais, and members of other small minority religious groups sometimes found it difficult to register births or marriages, notwithstanding the 2007 regulation pertaining to marriage and civil administration that allowed Aliran Kepercayaan marriages to be officially recognized. According to representatives of the Aliran Kepercayaan communities, adherents sometimes found it difficult to find employment or educational opportunities due to the blank religion field on their identity cards (KTPs).
In practice, couples prevented from registering their marriage or the birth of a child sometimes converted to one of the recognized religions or misrepresented themselves as belonging to one of the six religions. Those who chose not to register their marriages or births risked future difficulties, such as an inability to obtain birth certificates for children, which were required for school enrollment, scholarships, and government employment.
Interreligious couples also continued to face obstacles to marrying and officially registering their marriages and often had difficulty finding clergy to perform the required ceremonies before registering a marriage. As a result, some couples traveled outside the country to marry and then registered the marriage at an Indonesian embassy. Despite being among the officially recognized religious groups, Hindus stated that they frequently had to travel long distances to have their marriages registered, because in many rural areas the local government could not or would not process the registration. On November 12, the director of the local office of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Salawu, West Java refused to register the marriage of an Ahmadi Muslim groom and Sunni bride, as it was “haram (prohibited under Islamic Law) to record their marriage as they (Ahmadis) are not the real Muslims.”
Human rights groups continued to receive occasional reports of local civil registry officials who rejected applications for KTPs submitted by members of unrecognized or minority religious groups. While civil registry regulations allowed the religion field to be left blank or select the choice “other,” the decentralized nature of the issuance of identity cards meant that some regions did not comply with these regulations. Some members of unrecognized religious groups found it easier to register with a religion other than their own and were issued KTPs that inaccurately reflected their religions. For example, some animists received KTPs that listed their religion as Islam. Many Sikhs registered as Hindu on their KTPs and marriage certificates. Similarly, some Jews registered as Christians or Muslims. Some citizens without a KTP had difficulty finding work. Several NGOs and religious advocacy groups continued to urge the government to delete the religion field from the KTPs, but made no progress.
Sharia police in Aceh continued to monitor compliance with Sharia regulations, although the level of police activity varied among districts. On September 3, Sharia police arrested four teenagers, two girls and two boys, for violating the prohibition against unmarried males and females being in close proximity to one another. The four were reportedly sitting together in a park after curfew. Following the arrest, local media printed allegations by the Sharia police that the teenage girls were prostitutes -- charges that the girls’ families and supporters denied. On September 6, one of the girls committed suicide.
During Ramadan, many local governments ordered either the closure or a reduction in operating hours of various entertainment establishments. Several regional governments issued circulars limiting the operating hours of night entertainment venues, cafes, and restaurants during the month of Ramadan. Some of the restaurants chose to close voluntarily while others, if not serving halal food, remained open, often posting a sign that the business was not Muslim-owned.
The government implemented Sharia-based regulations in a number of areas. In August the mayor of Gorantolo, Sulawesi refused to allow a civil servant to take his post after the new employee failed to read the Quran in Arabic during his swearing in ceremony. After two months, the civil servant was able to read the Quran in Arabic and assumed his post.
Christian groups stated that foreign religious workers found it difficult to obtain or extend visas. Requirements for religious worker visas were more onerous than other visa categories. The application required approval from both local and national offices within the Ministry of Religion and disclosure of the number of followers of the religion in the community. The applicants had to attest they would remain in their position no more than two years before being replaced by a local national. Foreigners granted such visas worked relatively unimpeded. Faith-based workers with a primary focus on development work often successfully registered for social visas with the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Education.