Current issues

Issues on christianization in Indonesia, 1992

An aerial view of Istiqlal Mosque and Catherdral Church in Jakarta

NEAR the end of the year 1992, Indonesia was struck by various rumours of churches which had been burnt down by groups of Muslims and of other disturbances in the harmonious relations between the different religious communities in the country. Speculations developed because, as a result of government instructions, for several weeks the Indonesian mass media were full of calls to preserve the good relations between the different groups and with reports of top level meetings between representatives of the religious communities and the public authorities, without any details of the actual incidents. These were reported only later and even then gradually.

The series of events can be traced back to August 1992. At that time, a number of residents of Cibubur, Ciracas, East Jakarta, were upset by activities in a house owned by a Christian member of the Batak ethnic group. When they asked him what he and his visitors did in his house every to the head of the subdistrict and demanded that he close the house. The subdistrict administration issued a warning to the owner of the house, but he ignored it. Then, on 8 November 1992, the local residents held a demonstration in front of the house where at that moment a religious service was being held. They ran wild and hit a preacher. The preacher, however, was saved from the mob violence. (JUMAT, 11-24 Dec. 1992)

On 26 September 1992, the local offices for education and culture and for religious affairs of Tangerang, West Java, sent a warning to the leader¬ship of the Christian education institute Strada, in the subdistrict of Cibodas, Tangerang, West Java, to stop the religious activities in its buildings which were situated in the middle of a group of four mosques. The buildings, in fact, had no religious licence. The chairman of the Cibodas neighbourhood administration, Abas Asni, said that there were only four Christians in his area. He also admitted that he was often visited by both civil and military persons who offered him many things and urged him to issue a licence for the religious activity. Similar incidents happened in the subdistrict of Rambutan, Ciracas, East Jakarta. (JUMAT, 11-24 Dec. 1992; MEDIA DAKWAH, Feb. 1993)

Early November, a Protestant church named “Gereja Kristen Protestan Angkola” in the village of Pelawi, Babalan District, Pangkalan Brandan, North Sumatra, was damaged by some local Muslim residents after they had realized that they had been cheated by the co-ordinator of the church. Earlier they had been told that the building was only to serve as a meeting hall. There were only seven Christians in the village.

Next, on 15 November 1992, a Pentecostal church in the village of Ngopak, Grati District, Pasuruan, East Java, was also damaged by a mob of Muslim inhabitants after they found that it had been built without a building permit two years earlier. The church was constructed opposite a site where a mosque was being built. An additional spark to their fury was that afterwards they became aware that Davied Hendra, the minister of the church, was the publisher of the bulletin El Shaddai, which was considered to denigrate their belief and which be came the object of an investigation reported on above. The `ulama’ of the city had actually tried to prevent people from damaging the church. Instead, they sent a letter to the local authorities urging them to take measures against the minister. But efforts to solve the problem in a more amicable way became worse than useless when an anonymous leaflet was circulated which incited the Muslim population to gather on 15 November to call Davied to account. One day before, however, he was arrested by the authorities. His activities could not be considered to be representative of the general policy of his church organization. On 9 November, Davied Hendra, 38-year-old, was actually expelled from the Pentecostal Church in Indonesia. This measure was taken because he had ignored the warning of the regional church council not to continue the publishing of the bulletin and had never complied with its summons to a meeting.

Mahanaim Church and Muqorrobien Mosque standing side by side in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta.

On 21 November, dozens of people attacked a Roman Catholic church in the village of Reco, Wonosobo, Central Java. Earlier, the local community had lodged their complaints about its construction with the regent of Wonosobo. The regent had agreed to postpone issuing a building permit. However, while waiting for the licence, the construction was continued.

In Yogyakarta, a 26-year-old student at the Theological College Nazarena, was put on trial on the charge of having vilified the name of Islam. When expounding the Christian faith to a Muslim couple, he had said that Muslims always shout when they want to pray. When he came back to the couple’s house, he was almost lynched by some residents of the neighbourhood, but was finally delivered to the local security officers by some others. This incident sparked off rumours that the Nazarena College obliged its students to christianize some people before they could graduate. However, the college leadership denied these allegations and declared that the incident had only been a personal action of the student in question. (EDITOR, 12 Dec.; TEMPO, 19 Dec. 1992)

In Jember, East Java, while the Christian community was in full preparation of the Christmas celebration on 24 December 1992, a church was set on fire by ten Muslim youngsters who threw molotov cocktails at it. The fire could be extinguished, however, with the help of another group of Muslims, who were holding an Islamic study meeting just beside the church. The ten arsonists were tried in the city court of Jember at the end of February. (KOMPAS, 1 March 1993)

Mosquer and church standing side by side in Karo regency, North Sumatra.

Official or less official reactions to the construction of places of worship without following a proper procedure were not limited to cases of church building only. In the same period, on 10 December 1992, Armindo Soares, the regent of Dili, in the predominantly Roman Catholic province of East Timor, ordered the demolition of a mosque behind the provincial Office for Public Works on the grounds that it had no licence. The regent declared that he would have demolish any other buildings without permits. (TEMPO, 19 Dec. 1992) On the island of Bali, where Muslims form only 8% (200,000 people) of the 2.7 million inhabitants the great majority of whom is Hindu, a special regulation has been enacted since 1990: a building permit for a place of worship is delivered only if at least 40 legal residents adhere to the religion in question and the other local residents agree. The Chairmen of the Balinese MUI, the Balinese branch of the ICMI and the Yayasan Kesejah¬teraan Ummat Bali (Foundation for the Welfare of the Balinese [Muslim] Community), K.H. Habib Adnan , Drs. H. Ahmad Sastra and Ishaq Husin Shirmuhammad, B.Sc. respectively, confirmed that they acknowledged that regulation. But anyway, there was no conflict between the adherents of both religions in question, Habib Adnan added. (PELITA, 27 Nov. 1992)

Some Muslim performing prayer in Hidayatullah Mosque built in the 18th century. The mosque is located in the downtown Jakarta and was almost demolized in early 1990s.

On 12 November, when a mua’dzin (caller for the prayer) called for the ‘Asar (afternoon) prayer, someone threw a beer bottle into the mosque local security officers. Meanwhile, the secretary-general of the MUI, H.S. Prodjokusumo, revealed that a kiai was once arrested and interrogated by security officers just because he had written a correction to an anonymous circular leaflet which attacked Islam citing the Koran verses improperly. (MEDIA DAKWAH, Dec. 1993; KOMPAS, 25 Dec. 1992 – 7 Jan. 1993)

M Natsir

A “spectacular” effort at “christianization” was made by a physician at the Cipto Mangunkusomo hospital of Jakarta. He tried to convert the famous Muslim figure M. Natsir at the very hour of his death. Natsir was well-known as chairman of the Persis and the DDII, an organization known for its active opposition to “christianization” in the country. The rumour of this case apparently had spread to remote spots, especially in Java, Sumatra, and South Sulawesi, as well as been broadcast by the Asy-Syafi’iyah radio station in Jakarta when it broadcast the celebration of isra’ Mi’raj at the Al Barkah Mosque of Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, on 31 January 1993. Worried that it could make people angry, both the DDII and the Persatuan Umat Islam (PUI) through the MUI and the government institutions con¬cerned, lodged a complaint with the government demanding that stern measures be taken against that physician. A paramedic, who reported the physician’s behaviour to the Natsir family, declared that such actions were often undertaken by some Christian physicians in the case of Muslim patients. (MEDIA DAKWAH, March 1993)

In a comment on these issues, the secretary-general of the KWI, Mgr. M.D. Simorangkir, admitted that cases of christianization indeed existed but that these were not on the orders of the KWI nor were they part of their pro¬gramme, because the Second Vatican Council had agreed to give a new content to Roman Catholic mission, that is to give guidance to their own community. The comment of the well-known Catholic priest and intellectual Franz Magnis-Suseno had a similar import. He explained that the rumours on “christianization” were not nonsense, but these were being conducted by some small Christian sects with an exaggerated form of propaganda. (TEMPO, 19 Dec. 1992).eka_dharmaputera_kp Dr. Eka Dharmaputera of the PGI confirmed that the Protestant churches united in this federation had no intention or plan to christianize all of the Indonesian population either. They preferred to work as much as possible in the interest of the whole nation. (EDITOR, 17 Dec. 1992)

As mentioned before, for a couple of weeks, the Indonesian mass media had apparently been instructed to refrain from publishing news about all these disruptive incidents in the relations between the different religious communities. However, that something had gone wrong seemed even more obvious since several high officials at different places simultaneously launched similar appeals.

President Soeharto, when opening the congress of the Walubi in the Presidential Palace of Jakarta on 7 December 1992, expressed his concern about rumours that tended to incite confrontation between people of different religions. He reminded his audience that it would be a major step backwards if the Indonesian nation succumbed to religious friction. Confrontation between religions would cause extensive damage and inflict deep wounds which would take a long time to heal. Therefore, the president called on all religious leaders to exercise wisdom and a high degree of self-control and to give a good example to their fellow believers. He admitted that every believer should have a strong faith in the truth of his religion, but should also respect the religious beliefs of others.

Meanwhile, at a Christmas celebration organized by the Christian civil servants in Jakarta on 29 December 1992, the President called on the Indonesian people to develop a better understanding of their own faith in order to enhance their respect and tolerance for other religions and not to belittle other faiths and to be wary of fanaticism. He also urged Christians to engage in constructive dialogues with adherents of other religions. He emphasized the pluralistic nature of the Indonesian society. Similar remarks were launched by the Minister of Home Affairs, Rudini, and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Gen. Try Sutrisno. They stated that the rumours were signed to incite conflicts between religious groups. (BERITA BUANA, JAKARTA POST, KOMPAS, PELITA, 8 Dec. 1992) Then, on 6 December 1992 the military commander of Jakarta, Maj. Gen. K. Harseno, held a meeting with 1,000 Muslim leaders from Jakarta, Bekasi, and Tangerang, followed by a meeting with other religious leaders in East Jakarta the next day. On these occasions, Harseno informed them that some student brawls in recent months had shown a tendency towards religious conflict. The commander said that the police had arrested 75 high school students who planned to attack a Christian school in Kramat Raya Street, Central Jakarta, due to rumours that a student of this school had burnt a copy of the Koran. Police investigations confirmed that these rumours were unfounded. He asked the religious leaders to help the security officers to calm down the students and youngsters through their sermons and preaching and to avoid rumours that might incite religious friction. (KOMPAS, 7, 8, 30 Dec.; PELITA, SUARA PEMBAHARUAN, 8, 30 Dec.; TEMPO, 12 Dec.; JAKARTA POST, 30 Dec. 1992)

In the meantime, the Ministry of Religious Affairs praised the commander’s effort and those of the Jakarta Administration to overcome the student brawls. (SUARA PEMBAHARUAN, 8 Dec. 1992) In line with Harseno’s appeal, the Minister of Religious Affairs, Munawir Sjadzali, when inaugurating a mosque at the Pesantren Hidayatullah of Martapura, South Kalimantan, appealed to `ulama’ not to use mosques as places to pave the way for irresponsible and destructive behaviour. Meanwhile, the chairman of the MUI, K.H. Hasan Basri, called on ‘ulama’, public figures, and Muslims in general not to be provoked by various rumours. (BERITA BUANA, JAKARTA POST, KOMPAS, PELITA, 4, 9 Dec. 1992)

In connection with these tensions, on 8 December the Nandlatul Ulama issued a press release expressing its concern about the emotional attitude and action of certain Muslims, which could harm other people to say nothing of the image of Islam. Therefore it called on Muslims, and especially NU members, to avoid the expression of opinions. attitudes and actions which could disturb the relations between different religious communities. Other organizations issued similar statements. The Muhammadiyah deplored various incidents Which damaged national unity and called on all sides to maintain it. (BERITA BUANA, 16 Dec.; JAKARTA POST, PELITA, 15 Dec., KOMPAS, 9 Dec.; SUARA PEMBAHARUAN, 10 Dec. 1992) Meanwhile, the GAMKI called on the authorities to take severe measures against persons who spread rumours leading to religious bias. (SP, 11 Dec. 1992) On 9 December, Minister Munawir Sjadzali called on religious communities who found leaflets or bulletins vilifying other religions to report them immediately to the authorities and not to reproduce or to spread them. (SP, 10 Dec. 1992) Meanwhile, Minister Rudini of Home Affairs confirmed that the government would take stern measures if certain groups or parties spread rumours on religious conflicts in order to split national unity and drive a wedge into integrity. (KOMPAS, 12 Dec. 1992).

In Pasuruan, the chief of the Regional Military Command of East Java, Maj. Gen. R. Hartono, held a meeting with `ulama’ and other leading figures of the town on 19 December. At the meeting, he revealed results of the investigation about some cases of religious conflict in various areas in the province. For example, in Bojonegoro, some sweets had been wrapped in pages from the Koran and the Bible. This indicated, he clarified, that there were efforts being made by certain individuals to disturb the interreligious harmony in East Java. (WASPADA, 20 Dec. 1992) Earlier, the chief also urged the local religious leaders to establish fora in order to put an end to religious conflicts. Meanwhile, the chief of the Regional Military Command of Aceh, North and West Sumatra, Maj. Gen. R. Pramono, confirmed that he would take stern action against anyone who sowed discord. He also called on religious leaders to guide their communities so that they should not be easily provoked. (SUARA PEMBAHARUAN, 27 Nov.; BERITA BUANA, JAKARTA POST, 30 Nov. 1992)

Responding to remarks of the President and the military commander of East Java on the establishment of a forum for dialogue, the MUI stated that it would not create a new forum for religious dialogue in Indonesia. It would continue to use the existing forum at the Ministry of Religious Affairs. In this forum, representatives of all religious councils have been discussing all interreligious problems for ten years. (REPUBLIKA, 31 Dec. 1992)

Several other persons launched various appeals and proposals to end religious tension. Mgr. Leo Soekoto of the KWI explained the rising tension between the religious communities by the fact that at lower levels the communities had not initiated the harmony existing between their leaders. This problem had to be dealt with now, he concluded. (EDITOR, 17 Dec. 1992) Syu’bah Asa, a former journalist of the magazine Tempo, who graduated from the Faculty of Ushul ad-Din of IAIN Sunan Kalijaga of Yogyakarta, suggested to develop an education programme based on the theology of interreligious relations because there were many elements of such a theology in Islam. He said that Islam had been mealed with the consciousness that this world was plural. As a historical example he referred to the Madinah Charter, which regulated relations between the different groups of inhabitants of the town at the time of the hijrah (the emigration of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers to Madinah). This had been a recognition of the existence of religions other than Islam. (PELITA, 7 Jan. 1993) Earlier, Minister Munawir Sjadzali had also referred to the Madinah Charter in an interview with Tempo. (TEMPO, 19 Dec. 1992)

Meanwhile, some Muslim organizations and figures urged the government to implement the existing regulation on religious preaching and the establishment of places of worship. Among them the DDII and the Pemuda Muhammadiyah. Furthermore, Said Tuhueleley, a lecturer at the Muhammadiyah University of Yogyakarta and chairman of the Laboratorium Dakwah (“Da’wah Laboratory”) of Pesantren Budi Mulia, revealed that some Muslim communities in Central Java, for example in the area of Purwomartani, Kalasan, who disagreed with the actions of Christian missionaries in entering their houses, had hung copies of the ministerial decrees of 1969, 1978, and 1979 on religious preaching, the development of religious activity, the establishment of places of worship and foreign aid for religious institutions in Indonesia, on the front of their houses. In the same region a report was heard of university students who conducted missionary activities among the local residents under the cover of being members of a philanthropic movement. In relation to these cases, K.H. Hasan Basri stated that it was time those decrees should be changed into governmental regulations which contained penal sanctions for transgressors, in contradistinction to the present decrees. He revealed that the MUI had proposed this to the government twice, namely in its 1990 and 1992 national working meetings. So far, the government had not yet given its response. Previously, on 1 November, the Badan Kerjasama Pondok Pesantren (BKSPP) of West Java had urged the government to establish a law on religious preaching because problems would become still more complicated in the future. (HARIAN TERBIT, 5 Nov.; PELITA, 11, 19, 26 Dec. 1992, 4 Jan. 1993)

On 4 January 1993, the head of the Project of Development of Harmony in Religious Life of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Syuhada Abduh, revealed that the government had published a compilation of regulations concerning the harmony of religious life to help government officials in the different regions to handle cases in this field and religious leaders to guide their communities. Formerly the regulations were scattered in various texts. (REPUBLIKA, 5 Jan. 1992)

Prof Dr Hamka

Actually, efforts to overcome religious conflicts in Indonesia have been carried out since 1967. In that year the country suffered a series of religious conflicts caused by religious preaching which was sparked off by rumours of the burning of a church in Meulaboh, West Aceh, which later became a national issue. The conflict led to debates in parliament, where J.C.T. Simorangkir questioned the government about the Meulaboh incident and Lukman Harun in connection with foreign aid for Christian institutions in Indonesia. Several months later, a church was damaged in Ujungpandang, South Sulawesi. These events caused the government to organize a so-called “Interreligious Deliberation” in Jakarta, on 30 November 1967, which was attended by Muslim, Hindu, Protestant and Roman Catholic Christian and Buddhist figures. At the meeting, it proposed the establishment of an “Interreligious Contact Agency” and the signing of a character adopting the principle laid out by the President in his opening address, namely not to make people who already adhere to a religion the object of religious propaganda. However, the Christian party refused to sign the latter, referring to texts in the Bible (Apostles 1:8; Mark 16:15) which stated that Christians had a mission to spread God’s word to other people. At that time HAMKA, a well-known Muslim scholar, considered that the meeting had produced two positive results, namely that for the first time since Indonesia’s Independence Christians had frankly declared before Muslim leaders and scholars that they had a holy mission to christianize all Muslims and, on the other hand, it had strengthened the belief of Muslims in the Koranic words of warning that Jews and Christians will not be happy before Muslims follow their faith. (Al-Quran Surah Al-Baqarah, 20).

Prof Dr Mukti Ali

In 1971, Prof. Dr. Mukti Ali, from IAIN Sunan Kalijaga of Yogyakarta, the then Minister of Religious Affairs, who is also an expert in the comparative study of religion, proposed an open dialogue between leaders of the different religious communities and in 1972 his programme was institutionalized as the “Project for Harmony of Religious Life” which organized 23 meetings over a period of five years. Besides this a number of seminars, dialogues and discussions about the question were organized. Finally, as reported above, in 1992 a number of religious intellectuals, activated by Th. Sumartana and Djohan Effendi, finally established a forum for sharing religious experiences between adherents of different faiths, called the Institut Dian, in Yogyakarta. (TEMPO, 19 Dec. 1992)

Source: Darul Aqsha, Johan H Meuleman and Dick van der Meij, Islam in Indonesia. Jakarta: INIS, 1995.

Discussion on Circumcision of Muslim Women

khitan1THE ISLAMIC bi-weekly magazine, Amanah, No. 220 of 6 January 1995 edition focused reporting on the circumcision of Muslim women.

The report was published in connection with the CNN broadcast in the middle of September 1994 describing a religious rite of circumcision for a ten-year girl named Nagla Hamzah in the Sayeda Zaenab area of Cairo, Egypt.

This event was broadcast by the CNN during the UN’s Population Congress, which featured circumcision on the official agenda. The delegations of Western countries generally praised the broadcast. Time magazine paid attention to the case in its edition of 26 September 1994.

Amanah claims that the publicity was meant to condemn foreign cultural or religious values and was based on a misunderstanding. The magazine featured several opinions based on cultural, religious, and hygienic points of view.

khitan3 Dr. Ahmad Ramali in his dissertation entitled Peraturan Untuk Memelihara Kesehatan dalam Hukum Syara’ Islam (Regulation to Keep Health in the Islamic Law) mentioned that khitan (circumcision) for girls in Indonesia was introduced after the coming of Islam. Before this event, local communities only knew circumcision for boys.

khitan2Dr. Khuzaimah of the IAIN Syarif Flidayatullah, Jakarta, noted that there were three opinions on circumcision in the Islamic law: 1. Khitan is wajib (obligatory) for men and women (based on the Koran surah Al-Nahl: 123, al-Hadith narrated by Ahmad and Abu Daud, some Islamic law schools as the Maliki, the Shafi’ite, the Hanbali, and some opinions of classic Muslim scholars such as Al-Mawardi, Al-Khatwabi, Ibn Kudamah, and Ibn Al Arabi, Al Baihaqi, and Al Nawawi); 2. Khitan of is sunnah (recommended) for men, and honourably recommnded for women (opinions of Imam Malik, Imam Abu Hanifah, and some ‘ulama’ of the Shafi’ite school); 3. Khitan is wajib for men, and honourably recommended for women (opinions of some ‘ulama’ of Shafi’ite).

Wardah Hafidz M.A., editor of the magazine, ‘Ulumul Qur’an, and the coordinator of the Forum Kajian Perempuan dan Islam (Forum for Women and Islamic Studies), said that the excision of the clitoris in women which caused misery was not an Islamic teaching but it was only a tradition. She says, circumcision for women in Indonesia, in fact, does not damage a woman clitoris but only cleans it.

khitanHafidz’s opinion was supported by Dr. Boyke Dian Nugraha, a gynaecologist at the Dharmais Hospital in Jakarta. Nugraha said that only the skin covering clitoris (praeputium clitoris) is removed, adding that this skin prevents women from reaching a maximum orgasm in sexual coitus and thus may lead to an inharmonious relation in a marriage or to adultery.

In connection with this, Khuzaimah cited a hadith narrated by Ibn Qais that the Prophet said: Infidi wa Ian tanhiqi, fainnahu andhoru lilwajhi wa khadha”inda zauwji (Perform circumcision only a little bit, do not be excessive, because it should make women’s faces beaming, cheerful and beautiful, and it could give satisfaction to their husbands as well).

khitan4Nugraha recommended that circumcision for women should be carried out during their earliest year. Another expert advised the age of 7 to 9 years. However, Dr. Damardjati Supajar, an expert on the Javanese culture at the UGM, was of the opinion that they should be circumcised at 8 to 12 years old.

He claims that, in Javanese culture the rite of circumcision for women is known as tetesan and is carried out before they menstruate. It is aimed at avoiding panic when they have their first period and at reaching happiness and success in their family life. The happiness and success are actually God’s merit for observing sunnatullah (God’s law) (AM, 6 Jan. 1995)

In Egypt, khifad (circumcision for women) itself is a controversy among ‘ulama’ (PM, 11-21 Jan. 1995)

Source: INIS Newsletter Vol. XIII, 1997, p.70.

SDSB Lottery Withdrawn


WITHOUT doubt, during the period under review, the most important government decision which concerned the Muslim community in a particular way, was the withdrawal of the controversial Sumbangan Dermawan Sosial ilerhadiah (SDSB – Social Philanthropical Contribution With Prizes).

After many protests, on 25 November 1993, the Indonesian govern¬ment finally announced its decision to discon¬tinue this state-sponsored lottery, almost three months after it had issued a decree to extend the lottery permit for another three years.

The decision was announced by the Minister of Social Affairs, Endang Kusuma Inten Soe-weno, during a packed hearing before Com-mission VIII of the DPR, which was also followed by hundreds of demonstrators and other visitors. The government announced that it would seek an acceptable means of fund raising for social ends to replace the SDSB. The public following the meeting welcomed the minister’s announcement with yelling “Allahu Akbar” (God is very great) and per¬forming sulfa shukr (kneeling prayer of thanksgiving). The minister also reminded the hearing that the existing permit allowed the SDSB management to operate until 31 Decem¬ber 1993.

However, the deputy-chairman of Commission VIII, covering social affairs, Saad Syamlan of the PPP, confirmed that no other SDSB tickets would be allowed to be sold as of that day because this would only trigger a violent response from the public. Now the lottery had been withdrawn, Syamlan hoped that God would henceforth spare the country from disasters.

SDSBMuslim leaders praised the decision. K.H. Ilyas Ruchiyat of the NU called the withdrawal a deed of divine mercy. Sumar-gono of the KISDI considered it a sign that democracy was gaining strength in the country. Meanwhile, Hayono Isman, the State Minister for Sports and Youth, said that it was an extraordinary event because the withdrawal had been achieved without any instruction from the President. Some ‘ulamd’ united in the Ittihadul Muballighin (Union of Religious Preachers) and the MUI held a thanksgiving ceremony for the withdrawal of the SDSB.
The enterprise in charge with the operation of the SDSB, PT Arthadana Kriya, had stopped its activities since 24 November 1993. Earlier, the Minister of Social affairs had only stated that the government would replace the SDSB. This statement drew protests and debates from both legislators and the general public. They did not want it to be replaced, but to be halted immediately. Around 200 security officers were employed at the DPR commis¬sion meeting.

SDSB1Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Tanfidziah of the NU, K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid, was sceptical about the results of the hearing. He said that DPR members might meet the Minister of Social Affairs 1,000 times, but that would not solve the core prob-lem, i.e. that of the interests of the big busi¬ness which reaped large profits from the lot¬tery. (JP, 18, 26 Nov.; HT, JP, KO, PE, RE, SP, 23, 26, 27 Nov.; RE, 23, 26, 27, 29 Nov., 4 Dec.; TE, 4 Dec. 1993)

For years, students and Muslim groups had organized an unremitting series of protest actions against the lottery. Demonstrations were staged in Cirebon, Tasikmalaya, Ban-dung, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Jakarta, Sema-rang, Ujungpandang, Medan, Pekanbaru, among other towns (see also INIS Newsletter Vol. IV, p. 20-21; V, p. 26; VI, p. 18-19; VII, p. 21-23; X, p. 37-38).

In Bandung, West Java, several demonstrations were held and on 20 October 1993 this led to a clash with security officers. The result was that the authorities of Bandung and nearby Tasikmalaya ordered the closure of kiosks that sold SDSB tickets. Meanwhile, the Central Sulawesi administra¬tion delayed the extension of the lottery oper¬ation. In Jakarta too, demonstrations repeatedly filled the streets and on 10 November there was even a march to the Istana Negara (State Palace), a rare event since the mass demonstra¬tions by students against the Old Order regime in 1966. It was reported that injuries occurred during a demonstration of 11 November in Jakarta and 13 November in Padang, West Sumatra. Somewhat later, several delegations of ‘ulamd’ presented petitions to the DPR. On 20 November about 175 (other reports mention 120 and 150) ‘ularnd ‘ from 125 pesantrens and 58 Islamic institutions, associated in the FKLD, met the legislators. They asked them to urge the government to halt the lottery. Then they prayed together on the stairs of the DPR building. Meanwhile, at least 5 students who demonstrated in the front of the DPR building during the meeting between the Minister of Social Affairs and the DPR Commission on 25 November were arrested during the next few days.

They were accused of defamation of the president by distributing stickers explaining the abbreviation “SDSB” as “Soeharto Dalang Semua Bencana” (Soeharto Is the Mastermind of All Disasters). The students were Nuku Soleiman, the chairman of the Yayasan Pijar, and four students of the LAIN of Jakarta. These four were released after their rector, Dr. Quraish Shihab, had offered his personal guarantee for their good behaviour.

SDSB2At the end of October, after performing the Friday prayer, thousands of santris in Bangkalan, on the island of Madura, East Java, demolished lottery kiosks and even started a riot in the town. The Regent of Bangkalan then stopped the sale of lottery tickets in his regency. The Regent of Jember, elsewhere in East Java, took a similar decision. In Padang, West Sumatra, about 2000 students held a demonstration against the SDSB in which three protesters were injured. In Medan, North Sumatra, hundreds of students flooded the streets to protest about the extension of the lottery by burning an effigy of Minister Inten Soeweno. On 12 November 1993, the MUI and the ICMI issued a joint statement that all forms of gambling were prohibited by religion; therefore they called upon people, especially Muslims, not to succumb to the temptation to gamble. They also expressed their concern about the latest demonstrations because these tended to be injurious to the nation. Therefore, they exhorted the population to build up their solidarity in support of national unity. (PE, RE, 12 Nov. 1993)

A number of non-Muslim intellectuals joined the appeals of Indonesian Muslim leaders for the abolition of the SDSB. Among them were Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit priest and lecturer of philosophy, and Putu Setia, the chairman of Forum Cendekiawan Hindu Indonesia (FCHI – Indonesian Forum of Hindu Intellectuals). Magnis-Suseno said that the lottery actually had more negative effects than positive ones. Putu Setia called on Hindu youth throughout the country to support the struggle of other Indonesian youngsters against the SDSB. Meanwhile, Dr. Josef M. Pattiasina of the PGI, stated that his federation had repudiated the SDSB from the very beginning because it pauperized people.

On 15 November 1993, Minister Tar-mizi Taher of Religious Affairs, Minister Inten Soeweno, and K.H. Hasan Basri, the chairman of the MUI, held a meeting. The meeting held on the initiative of the Ministry of Religious Affairs to seek some input from the MUI about religious aspects of matters pertaining to the SDSB. On that occasion, Tarmizi Taher declared his optimism that the lottery would be cancelled. On yet another occasion, he also drew attention to the fact that the abolition of the SDSB should mark the beginning of the elimination of an endemic gambling habit. Meanwhile, Rudini, the former Minister of Home Affairs, said that in view of the demon¬strations it would be too sensitive not to abol¬ish the SDSB.

According to legislator Khofifah, of the Rp 5 trillion (US$ 2.3 billion) raised from the SDSB annually, only about Rp 415 billion flowed into the treasury, including Rp 255 billion in taxes. However, the abolition of the SDSB would cause the Komite Olahraga Nasional Indonesia (KONI – Indonesian Natio¬nal Sports Committee) loose an annual subsidy of Rp 119 billion from the proceeds of the SDSB. (RE, 15, 21, 25, 26, 30 Oct., 2, 6, 7, 8, 11, 15, 16, 21, 23, 27 Nov.; JP, 16, 22 Oct., 8, 11, 12, 16, 18, 22, 23, 25, 26, 29, 30 Nov.; KO, 16, 27 Oct., 8, 9, 12, 22, 24, 25, 26, 29 Nov.; HT, 18, 25 Oct., 11, 18, 20, 22, 26, 27, 30 Nov.; SP, 11, 12, 16, 19, 23, 25, 26, 28, 29 Nov.; PE, 11, 16, 23, 29 Nov.; ED, 11 Nov., 9 Dec.; HI, 14 Nov.; DE, 8 Dec. 1993)

Amidst the upsurge of demonstrations, the Attorney-General, Singgih, stated that the SDSB was not a form of gambling but a form of donation for social ends with some prizes. People who considered it gambling should not buy tickets. He compared the SDSB to a pig: if the pig was harcim (banned by Islamic law), one was prohibited from eating the animal, but one should not kill it. K.H. Hasan Basri stig-matized Singgih’s analogy as obscure. A.M. Saefudin, a DPR member for the PPP, con-sidered the analogy twisted: if buying SDSB tickets was equal to buying pigs, the con-clusion should be that the tickets should not be sold anywhere. Minister Tarmizi Taher con¬firmed that the President had refused the issuing of licences for any kind of gambling in particular places, for example in casinos. Similar reactions to Singgih’s statement were voiced by the chairman of the Persis, K.H. A. Latief Mukhtar. Mulyana W. Kusumah, a criminologist at the Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia (YLBHI – Foundation of Indonesian Legal Aid Institutes) confirmed that following the provisions in the Criminal Code, there was a gambling element in the SDSB. (RE, 22, 23 Oct.; SP, 22 Oct., 17 Nov.; DE, 27 Oct.; HT, 8 Nov. 1993)

In the meantime, several citizens proposed alternatives to the SDSB to collect funds for social purposes. A student of Gadjah Mada University of Yogyakarta proposed an alternative in the form of an arisan (a form of capital-raising in which the capital is formed by regular deposits by a group of persons and rotates among these persons in an order deter¬mined by lot). Other proposals were a tax on petrol, cigarettes, hotel accommodation, or airline tickets or by allowing advertisements on the public television station, TVRI. (RE, 11, 27 Oct., 3, 22, Nov., 4 Dec.; HT, 16 Nov.; PE, 19, 23, 26 Nov.; KO, 22 Nov.; JP, 3 Dec. 1993) In a later hearing with the DPR, Inten Soeweno revealed that her ministry was study¬ing a total of 113 proposals from the public for replacement of the SDSB lottery. She clas-sified the proposals into five categories: volun¬tary donation (13 proposals), sales promotion draw (13), draw pure and simple (23), charges borne by the society (49), arisan (6), and various other proposals (9). (HT, 2 Feb.; JP, PE, 3 Feb. 1994)

Since the abolition of the SDSB, illegal gambling has raised its head in some areas in the form of cock-fighting, agility contests, sale of foreign tickets from Singapore, and fake SDSB coupons. (HT, JP, 29 Nov.; RE, 1 Dec.; KO, 15, 16, 18 Dec.; PE, 1, 17 Dec. 1993, 4, 9 Feb. 1994)


2 thoughts on “Current issues

  1. It seems u really know a good deal about this specific
    subject matter and that exhibits through this posting, called “Current issues | Islam In
    Indonesia”. I am grateful -John

    • Thanks for your comment, John. I appreciate it. Hopefully, it could wide our horison about inter-religious relations in the most populous Muslim country in the world. I’m sorry for just responding your comment.

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