Measuring Religious Intolerance across Indonesian Provinces

This article was previously published by New Mandala:

How do Indonesian provinces vary in the levels of religious tolerance among their Muslim populations? Which province is the most tolerant and which one is the least? And how do we measure religious tolerance across regions using the tools of survey research? Having an answer to these questions is important, as it can help us understand how tolerance at the local level is influenced by local political dynamics, or how levels of tolerance might fluctuate over time.

But despite ample survey research on religious tolerance in Indonesia, these seemingly simple questions have not been satisfactorily answered. Most existing studies have overlooked the importance of subnational variation altogether, and those that look at the topic employ statistical methods that do not really allow proper comparisons, or measurements of the tolerance/intolerance construct.

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Kebebasan Beragama Pasca-Soeharto

Mei 1998, 22 tahun lalu, Soeharto jatuh dari kekuasaan setelah bertahta selama 32 tahun. Banyak perubahan yang terjadi setelah kejatuhan Soeharto. Sebagian positif, sebagian negatif.

Di antara perubahan yang ramai didiskusikan dan dibicarakan adalah menurunnya kebebasan beragama. Kata sebagian orang, kebebasan beragama di era pasca-Soeharto lebih buruk dari era Soeharto.

Tapi apa benar demikian? Beberapa waktu lalu saya dan Pusat Studi Agama dan Demokrasi (PUSAD) Paramadina berdiskusi soal ini. Link diskusinya bisa dilihat di sini:

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Damai dan Toleransi Bukan Sekedar Tak Ada Konflik

Damai sih, tapi kok dipaksa? (Credit:

Damai dan toleransi sebaiknya tidak kita maknai sebatas rukun dan tak ada konflik. Jangan-jangan, justru ada ketimpangan kuasa di dalam prosesnya.

Barangkali sudah jadi rahasia umum bahwa masyarakat kita cinta damai. Ditilang minta damai. Oknum TNI memukul anggota Polri berakhir damai. Pengendara moge gebukin orang juga berakhir damai.

Tidak hanya cinta damai. Kita juga toleran. Di bulan puasa, segelintir orang yang puasa tapi tidak tahan godaan menuntut warung-warung untuk toleran dan tutup di siang hari. Kita juga tidak segan memenjarakan orang yang mengeluh soal speaker rumah ibadah karena dianggap mengganggu toleransi mayarakat.

Bukannya nyinyir, tapi kenyataannya konotasi “damai” dan “toleransi” dalam masyarakat kita memang demikian. Kita sering menyederhanakan makna “damai” dan “toleransi” sebagai sekadar “rukun” atau “tidak ada konflik”. Pokoknya damai itu kalau nggak ada orang berantem, nggak ada orang berselisih pandang.

Pandangan ini keliru. Kenapa? Pasalnya memaknai damai dan toleransi sebagai ketiadaan konflik menunjukkan bahwa kita hanya peduli pada hasil dan mengabaikan proses. Dua masyarakat A dan B bisa terlihat sama-sama damai, rukun, dan tanpa konflik tapi proses mencapai kedamaian dan kerukunan itu bisa beda jauh.

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Blasphemy and Freedom of Speech

The deadly terror attack on French weekly Charlie Hebdo has put the debate over blasphemy back in the spotlight.

Although people across the globe condemn the attack, disagreement persists on whether Charlie Hebdo’s publication of religious caricatures itself was justified.

This disagreement is not alien to the Indonesian public. We had our own debates on blasphemy. The criminalization of Rakyat Merdeka online (2006) and The Jakarta Post (2014) over the publication of certain allegedly religiously offensive cartoons are but a few examples.

In such cases, we deal with the same question over and over again: Does freedom of speech include blasphemy? The answer proposed by some is a simple “No”. Freedom of speech does not include the right to engage in blasphemous activities.

There must be some limit to freedom. As convenient as the answer may be, it cannot withstand logical and practical tests. There are at least two reasons why a more reasonable answer to the question is actually an affirmative one.

Firstly, we cannot cherry-pick which speech acts ought to be free and which not. Something can be offensive only for those who believe in or identify themselves as a part of the entity being offended.
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To Bind the Nation’s Wounds

Published by the Jakarta Post on Sunday, August 2, 2014. Accessible on

There is a tradition among scholars of American politics to rank the country’s presidents based on their achievements. Surveys ask historians, political scientists and lay people to rate how great a president was.

Although consensus is a rare thing in politics, people interestingly seem to agree that Abraham Lincoln was the greatest president the United States has ever had.

Three of Lincoln’s qualities contributed to his high stature before the usually judgmental American public. First, he kept the nation intact during the civil war and maintained people’s belief in democracy. He repeatedly said that the US was an experiment of democracy, a test of whether people could be trusted to govern themselves without the iron hand of a king. He did not want the nation to collapse as it would have meant that the experiment had failed.

Second, Lincoln led the nation to confront and eliminate its darkest side: slavery. He believed that a free country could never be free as long as it allowed people to assume ownership over other people’s freedom.

Third, Lincoln was a man with a big heart. He forgave his political enemies. He even prepared a post-war reconciliation plan full of amnesties for the rebels. His famous saying was, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

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Democracy, Our Memory

Published by the Jakarta Post:

One of the founding fathers of the US, Thomas Jefferson, wrote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Such tyrants, Jefferson argues, must be constantly warned that the people are capable of resisting them. What Jefferson doubts, however, is whether the people will choose to resist the tyrants or remain quiet and lethargic.

Jefferson’s statement rings true to any democracy in the world. Democracy is not a static state. There is never a guarantee that a democracy today will be a democracy tomorrow. They die, perhaps more than authoritarian regimes do, and democratic progresses get rolled back all the time everywhere in the world.

Being a democracy means a country has to constantly choose between progressing and regressing. Even old democracies like the US and European countries have experienced this. After half a million casualties in the 1861-1865 Civil War to end slavery, the US had to face the fact that slavery was back in a new form: Southern racism. After the people forgot and politicians ceased to care, African-Americans were second-class citizens for almost a century.

The story of Europe is the same. Torn apart by World War II, Western Europe transformed itself into a bastion of democracy and human rights. However, the recent European elections saw the rise of far-right groups sympathetic to ultra-nationalist ideas. Sluggish economic growth and the decaying memory of the catastrophe ultra-nationalism once brought have contributed to voters embracing the stability these groups seem to offer.

Since no democracy is immune to these choices, it means Indonesia, too, will have to face the test. The upcoming presidential election on July 9 is probably it. We are asked to choose between two men, each with strengths and weaknesses and records of fulfilled and broken promises.

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