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DPR’s Religious Harmony Bill Gets Wings
Anita Rachman & Markus Junianto Sihaloho | February 12, 2011
Police officers guarding the Al Hidayah Mosque, an Ahmadiyah place of worship, in Jakarta on Thursday following Sunday’s deadly attack on sect members. (Antara Photo/Fanny Octavianus)
The deadly attack on an Ahmadiyah community last Sunday has prompted lawmakers and the government to speed up work on a religious harmony bill meant to prevent future violence.
“Ideally, we need three to four sitting periods to deliberate a law,” said Ahmad Zainuddin, deputy head of House of Representatives Commission VIII, which oversees religious affairs.
“But given the urgency, I am sure that we could push for the completion of the religious harmony bill by the end of the year,” he said on Friday.
The bill being drafted by the House’s expert staff at the Secretariat General is part of the 2011 National Legislation Program (Prolegnas), or the list of priority bills for the year.
Ahmad said the bill would serve as a shield for religious groups and would ensure that everyone would be able to practice their faith without fear of violence or intimidation.
However, M. Arwani Thomafi, a member of Commission VIII from the Islam-based United Development Party (PPP), said although the spirit of the bill was to respect all faiths, it would not recognize groups established to defame other religions.
“It won’t legitimize fallacious groups,” Arwani said. “Freedom [to worship] doesn’t mean that you can tarnish the teachings of other religions.”
He said the bill would not address the 2008 join ministerial decree limiting the activities of the Ahmadiyah, a minority Muslim sect deemed deviant for its teachings.
However, Arwani said the bill, if passed into law, would provide the Ahmadis with more protection, but added that regulations alone would never be able to completely eradicate religious violence in the country.
He said families, civic groups and religious figures needed to work together to promote tolerance and harmony.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said on Friday that it was considering whether to use the House’s right to question the government to call in officials over the failure to prevent religious violence.
Ahmad Basarah, deputy secretary general of the PDI-P, said in a news conference at the party’s headquarters in South Jakarta that chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri had urged members to discuss the issue in the House.
“We will soon summon members of the House leadership from the PDI-P to accelerate the establishment of a special committee to talk about violence related to religion,” he said after a party meeting on Thursday.
“The special committee could end up exercising its interpellation rights and summoning the president to question him about the matter,” Ahmad said.
Hamka Haq, a senior PDI-P official, blamed state officials for the violence, saying some had made statements encouraging attacks on minority sects.
He cited edicts from the Religious Affairs Ministry ordering the Ahmadiyah sect to disband and the Justice Ministry’s statement that religious attacks were not human rights violations.
“Those statements from the president’s helpers encouraged and boosted the confidence of the attackers,” he said. “They make the situation worse.”
Hamka said the state needed to stop condoning violence.
“We won’t say that Ahmadiyah beliefs are true,” he said. “We only want to stress that it’s wrong if the government cannot provide protection for Ahmadiyah members.”