Religious Ties That Bind
Subscribers to the Jakarta Post receive a monthly colour magazine called the Weekender
; mine generally arrives on a Tuesday or Thursday. Ignoring the lexical timewarps implicit in that sentence, apart from those pages which extol lifestyles way beyond the means of the scavengers who collect our waste paper for recycling, I read it from cover to cover.
Most of the articles are of general interest and sometimes coincide with people
, issues and activities
I've already written about. There are also a couple of letters which are generally full of praise, rather than enlightening and praiseworthy.
One of the latter sort, which I can't find online, raises a fundamental issue for those of us who have adopted an Indonesian lifestyle by marrying a local.
Nigh on 20 years ago I jumped through linguistic hoops as I 'converted' to Islam in order to legally marry 'Er Indoors. It was our understanding that folk of different religious faiths or, as in my case, a lack of belief in the people-designated rituals followed by the multifarious religions, could only enter into a legally binding marriage in Indonesia if they followed the same behavioural rules.
Under Suharto's 'guided democracy', based on his interpretation of Pancasila
and backed up by various laws, just five religions were then acceptable, all of which (including Hinduism!) share a belief in one god - Allah be His name? Confucianism has now been added to the list.
According to the letter from Gita Darmawan, a legal counsel, according to Article 7 of the 1974 Marriage Law a marriage is valid if it is conducted in accordance with each religion and faith.
It does not
state that the couple must be of the same religion.
That each partner must have a religious belief is not mentioned in her letter, nor that religious affiliations are written on Indonesians' ID cards. There is as yet no right to not have such a belief. Thus Indonesian atheists continue to lack public acceptance. However, thanks to online social networks
they are now able to peek out from their closets.
I fear they will have a long wait for public acceptance. Atheism is still equated with communism and deep communal scars, guilt even, remain from the pogrom of 65/66.
A major worry for some is that SBY's new cabinet indicates that creeping Islamisation is part of his agenda.
Several ministers in his recently announced cabinet have, in their previous public roles, indicated a blinkered sharia-type mindset. The new Home Affairs Minister, Gamawan Fauzi, for example, was the Governor of West Sumatra which during his just ended tenure was the first Province to enact sharia-type regulations. Thus the mayor of Bukittinggi cancelled the traditional New Year celebrations at the clock tower on the grounds that boys and girls might be observed kissing in public.
Then there's the chairman of the inaptly named Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Tifatul Sembiring, who has been appointed Communication and Information Minister. PKS controls the local government in the neighbouring township of Depok. Its mayor has banned the building of a church on the grounds that it would cause public disturbances, quite unlike the calls to prayer
from mosques. More recently, he has ordered the closure of karaoke parlours. This was not because of the discordant sounds within but because, he no doubt says from personal observation, they are dens of prostitution.
In a supposedly pluralistic country in which each established religion has its synod or council to issue edicts to guide (control?) its adherents, there is surely no need for a Religious Affairs Ministry, especially one which condones polygamy. The new Minister is Suryadharma Ali, the chairman of the United Development Party (PPP), one of the three parties 'approved' by Suharto. Ali is best known for suggesting that the Islamic sect, Ahmadiyah, known for its peaceful ways rather than its extremism, be banned.
It's early days so we still live in hope that SBY will consolidate the perceived progress made since 97/98. In spite of, or perhaps due to, the machinations of the military in league with the political and business elites back then and since, reformasi
has continued to be the rallying call of the rakyat
(citizenry). Their continued participation in the democratic process which guarantees freedom of speech and the right to those rights laid down in the many United Nations Conventions which Indonesia is a signatory to is absolutely necessary .
God only knows whether SBY is on the right track because, sure as hell, it's hard to tell at the moment.