Rogue Wan sees sinister forces behind the anti-Jamaah Ahmadiyah witch hunt.
The Indonesian government's proposed decree to ban Jamaah Ahmadiyah as a "heretical sect" must be met by vigorous protests. The right of all Indonesian citizens to practice their religious beliefs as enshrined in the constitution must be defended. Immediate measures must be taken to halt the climate of fear and hostility that is being whipped up by religious fundamentalists toward the members of Ahmadiyah. Stop the persecution of Jamaah Ahmadiyah members! Defend Ahmadiyah against attacks and reprisals!
What makes both mainstream and fundamentalist religious leaders in Indonesia so scared of Ahmadiyah? Are not the beliefs of millions of Indonesian citizens or the central tenets of the Islamic faith strong enough to withstand the beliefs, ideas and practices of a few thousand Jamaah Ahmadiyah members? The issue is essentially not about the religious beliefs and practices of Ahmadiyah. This is a smoke and mirror argument to hide another agenda. It is about how, what and who will control the minds, bodies and actions of Indonesia's millions of increasingly angry and discontented poor. Ada udang di balik batu, there is a hidden agenda.
The vast majority of Indonesian citizens living in abject poverty facing daily uncertainty in finding work, food, education, decent health care and a future for their children. There is a very palpable anger against the misery and degradation of their lives that is caused by the ineptitude and corruption of the small layer of rich. In turn, the elite have a real fear that they are sitting on top of a social volcano that could explode anytime. Hence, it is no coincidence that the government, religious organisations and individuals consciously and cynically seek to co-opt the basic religious beliefs of Indonesian citizens and the resurgence of Islam in public life for the simple reason that Islam, like all religions, is an excellent instrument to control and coerce the population.
Besides wealth, corruption and connections, pandering to the basic Islamic, social and cultural beliefs of the population, is now, in Indonesia the simplest and most opportunistic method to gain political advantage. Over the last few years we have witnessed a never ending parade of politicians, who are inevitably always male, jostle to outdo each other in a struggle to posture themselves as "more" Islamic than the other candidate and who all have plans to halt the so-called decay in society's morals through upholding the "word of god" and applying Sharia law.
Once in power all they can do is introduce ill-conceived, anti-women Sharia inspired by-laws as some kind of magical "silver bullet" panacea to cure all problems! As can be easily predicted, women suffer at the hands of religious dogma and everything else, the poverty, lack of decent education, health care, services, roads etc remains pretty much the same.
The consequences and results of this are serious and disturbing for all citizens, but especially for women and minorities. Many of these by-laws have an unhealthy obsession with sex, morals and supposed 'deviancy'; and almost all are attacks on the basic rights of all women.
It can also be comic and daft like the Batu local government in East Java issuing an informal ruling requiring women who work in massage parlors to use a kind of chastity padlock on their clothing whilst performing their work! Besides pandering to the hoary myth of the women as temptress, the people who thought up this regulation obviously did not think too much about the immense variety of sexual contact that is possible between humans and how a padlock won't really stop humans seeking "forbidden fruit". Does the ruling extend to male masseuses as well? Is the next step to force women to gag their mouths as well?
Thus the attacks on Ahmadiyah must be seen as part of a campaign of social and religious reaction aimed at regimenting and intimidating the entire Indonesian population.
NU Chairman Hasyim Muzadi is quoted in the Jakarta Post, 18 April as saying
In Islam, Ahmadiyah is deviant. It is the government's domain to outlaw it or not for stability reasons.
So exactly what is Ahmadiyah guilty of deviating from? Or is it just a case of holding nonconformist beliefs that are contrary to the self-styled orthodoxy of the parasitic caste of Ulema (Islamic priests) who have a vested interest in maintaining their "brand" of Islam, and ensuring that the money and influence that they derive from this position continues to flow. The so-called guardians of Islamic orthodoxy seem to forget the adage that the heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next age. Today in Indonesia faith and religion are business and business is booming and that means their "brand" of Islam must be protected against potential business competitors.
In Indonesian society as a whole, what once were considered to be harmless, kooky or fundamentalist fringe beliefs are now becoming increasingly mainstream. On the surface it seems that the Indonesian central government and the state apparatus at all levels of government are more and more being influenced by; and subverted from within and without by conservative religious leaders and an increasingly vocal political Islam. In the case of Ahmadiyah and other banned religious organisations the Indonesian government is definitely taken a clear role in determining what you can and cannot believe, and thus become an energetic enforcer of Islamic religious orthodoxy. But who does this serve? Are Indonesians ready to accept this type of governmental religious indoctrination? Are Muslims themselves willing to let the government and a small number of conservative religious leaders tell them what they should believe and how to practice their faith?
Humans created god as an image of ourselves in our heads and then we subjugated ourselves and bowed down to worship our own image. Should people choose to worship god via religions that profess different beliefs and practices, then the state has no place in deciding whether the beliefs and practices of its citizens are true, or deviant or not. Religion ought to be a private matter in relation to the state and people should be free to practice their religion without state persecution and religious bigotry. The aim of instilling a religious "orthodoxy" is fundamentally to control and coerce the population and instill fear and obedience to authority.
All religion at its core has a duality; it is both an instrument of oppression and a comfort for the oppressed. As Karl Marx once wrote,
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
Historically, the religiosity of black people in America was a solace from racial oppression and a promise of deliverance. For the millions of poor in Indonesia religion performs the same role, giving people hope amidst grinding poverty and lack of opportunity. As a narcotic it can soothe or block out the pain of the world but can it solve real world material problems or fix an economic or social crisis of the magnitude that Indonesia has suffered since the fall of Suharto? If anything it distracts, confuses and hinders people from finding real solution to the problems of poverty and hunger because one of religions major roles in society is to instill respect for authority and act as a conservatising force. Together with the family, it serves to instil a morality that forbids anything that deviates from an "imagined" ideal "” everything from your political beliefs, to who you can have sex with, to what you can eat.
To be sure, the Indonesian elite will continue to be trained at private universities that are beyond the reach of the poor and have good prospects for their personal future. But what about the future of for Indonesia? The anti-women obscurantist fundamentalist religious dogma pushed by elements of the ruling class will actually retard the overall development of Indonesian society. The only people who will benefit from more religion will be the parasitic Ulema caste and capitalists. For the poor, the women, the gays and the ethnic and religious minorities it will mean more rules, more social control, more persecution and continued impoverishment and majority Muslim masses will be kept quiet and docile waiting for a place in an imagined heaven in the skies.
Can religion solve the most pressing problems of hunger, poverty, lack of decent housing, education, medical and social services? Can religious orthodoxy supply an ideology that could seemingly harmonize conflicting class interests while keeping Indonesian society ordered? Will the grand plans of Sharia inspired law and Caliphates truly bring a just and prosperous society? These are the real questions to ask those people who sell the product of religion as the road to the future. Today, however, the material reality of poverty however perpetuates uncertainty, fear, and competition for scarce resources and ethnic/religious conflicts. The blame for this state of affairs is placed on the religious and ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups such as gays and lesbians. Ahmadiyah is a current victim of this type of intolerance and persecution. The right of all Indonesian citizens to live life in peace and to practice their religious beliefs as enshrined in the constitution must be defended and that is why it is imperative to protest the proposing banning of Ahmadiyah.
It is a case of an injury to one is an injury to all. Remember the words of Pastor Martin NiemÃ¶ller:
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Stop the persecution of Jamaah Ahmadiyah members! Defend Ahmadiyah!