When USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) released its 2022 report last month one of the countries that was recommended for the Special Watch List (SWL) was Indonesia.
In the country entry for Indonesia USCIRF listed the following issues of concern. First the government continues to prosecute blasphemy allegations and to impose harsh prison sentences upon conviction, Religious Hardliners and other intolerant groups continue to threaten minority groups houses of worship One of the methods that is currently being used is the exploitation of the 2006 Joint Regulation on Houses of Worship.
The Regulation is a revision of the 1969 of the Joint Ministerial Decree on the Construction of Houses of Worship issued by the Ministry of Religion and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This decree gave much power to local authorities to guide and supervise so that religious missions would not divide communities. It also stipulated that a House of Worship could only be built with the approval of a regional administrator such as the provincial governor. Only if it was deemed necessary would local religious leaders be consulted with any projects.
Some feel that the 2006 revisions are too vague and have been seen by some as problematic. The revisions were announced only after 2 years of intensive debate within Indonesian Civil Society and are even more restrictive and there are concerns about whether or not they will promote harmony between faiths.
Recent reporting suggests that even though the Indonesian Government has taken some steps to curtail the efforts of Hardline Groups such as Hizbut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Hardline voices that are calling for Indonesia to become a Caliphate are still vocal.
The groups have decided to shift tactics. Instead of launching Terrorist Attacks the militants have adopted more peaceful activites such as preaching to gain recognition and avoid arrest by the security forces. Thereby they are operating without drawing the attention of the government.
There is another area of concern. There are concerns that the jihadists are working with Muslim Communities to with the goal of infiltrating Indonesian Politics by rallying around specific islamic based parties and endorsing those candidates that are sympathetic to their views and goals of creating an “Islamic State of Indonesia.”
One group that falls under this criteria is Khilfatual Muslimin. This is one of the oldest groups that is in operation in Indonesia that has sought to introduce the caliphate through preaching. Its teachings have been well received within the Mulsim community in Indonesia. However in the last few weeks this group has made the headlines.
While it has been able to operate under the radar with its mosques, schools and even a university iits extremist teachings have been exposed to the general public. It has openly spoken of replacing the Secular dialogue of Indonesia with a more radical ideology.
It should be noted that the cleric Abdul Qadir Hasan Baraja who is the spiritual leader of Khiafatual Muslimin was arrested by Indonesian Security Forces after a series of Motorbike Convoys through Jarkata supporting calls to establish a Caliphate.
The situation within Indonesia needs to be monitored closely.