Religious intolerance among Indonesian Muslims has increased in the last 10 years, a new study shows, indicating a link with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country.
The survey results were announced Tuesday by the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM), an independent research center at the State Islamic University (UIN) in Jakarta.
The findings confirmed the results of previous surveys by other study groups.
PPIM executive director Jajat Burhanudin said his center’s study was conducted nationwide between 2001 and 2010, each year surveying different groups of 1,200 Muslim men and women aged 17 and above, mostly elementary and junior high school graduate from various backgrounds.
“The study used several indicators to measure tolerance such as the level of objection among Muslims to non-Muslims teaching their children in public schools, and to plans by non-Muslims to building houses of worship,” he said.
The survey showed that non-acceptance levels among the surveyed Muslims toward the construction of churches and other non-Muslim religious buildings in 2010 was 57.8 percent, the highest ever recorded since 2001 (40.5 percent).
In 2010, around 27.6 percent of those surveyed said they did mind if a non-Muslim taught their children at school, a 6.2 percent increase compared to 2008 (21.4 percent), but still lower than in 2007 (33.5 percent).
Jajat, who teaches Islamic history at UIN, said the statistics showed that in the past 10 years, intolerance among Muslim Indonesians appeared to have risen, especially in the case of construction of places of worship for non-Muslims.
The Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) said that in Greater Jakarta alone, at least 11 churches and Christian institutions were either destroyed or sealed off between January and August this year.
“We also tracked how this trend correlates with the rise of Islamic extremism. This means the more intolerant a Muslim is, the more likely that person is to support a fundamentalist agenda,” Jajat said.
He added that extremist ideology was widespread given the lack of strict standards and policies on mitigating the negative impacts of fundamentalism since the end of the authoritarian New Order regime.
A number of Islamic boarding schools still see teachers using “emotional appeals” in teaching students about non-Muslims, Jajat said.
The instructors, he continued, were acting independently of any Muslim association, making it hard for the government to monitor them. The Islamic hardliners, Jajat said, shared the same goal of trying to make Islam the basis of the state.
The study also revealed that 31.4 percent of respondents in 2008 supported chopping off the hand of a convicted thief as a legal form of punishment. This was an increase from 28.9 percent in 2001.
Jajat said he hoped that through these findings, the government would formulate policies aimed at building a more tolerant society.
Commenting on the survey, International Conference of Islamic Scholars secretary-general Hasyim Muzadi said, “The level of interreligious tolerance among Indonesian Muslims is high. However, there are cases in which religion is pitted against ethnicity; that is the root of emerging interreligious problems.”
Among instances of religious violence was the Sept. 12 stabbing of two church leaders in Bekasi, West Java.
Hasyim, also former Nahdlatul Ulama chairman, said religious minorities, including Muslims in Christian-majority areas, should be more sensitive when building houses of worship.
“They need to make full use of interreligious forums and local authorities should provide alternatives for the minority if locals rejects their proposal to build a new place of worship,” he said. (tsy)