Freedom of Choice in Religion

Mar 16th, 2009, in News, by

Indonesia's unique interpretation of human rights in respect of freedom of choice in religion, and secularism.

Professor Dr. Suyahmo of the Universitas Negeri Semarang (Unnes) said recently that human rights are basically universal and applicable to all but will take different forms in practical terms in each country, according to differing circumstances, history and culture.

Every country is free to determine human rights values in accordance with their ideology.

Because of this human rights in Indonesia would be different than in other countries, for example in the area of religion.

In secular countries people are free to adopt whatever religion they want, or none at all.

But Indonesia was founded on the Pancasila doctrine and it required that all citizens belong to a particular religion. However the country did allow people to choose which religion they wished to belong to, although the fact that this choice was limited to only six officially recognised faiths, they being Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, was a violation of human rights, he said. beritasore


44 Comments on “Freedom of Choice in Religion”

  1. avatar hary says:

    Article 18 of the Universal Declaration is set out below;
    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

    With greatest respect to the good Professor, if Indonesia is a member of the UN, and has not made any reservations to the Declaration, Indonesia is bound by the declaration as a matter of treaty law and customary international law.

    I recall Muslim countries having an additional declaration of fundamental rights, ( Ithink its called the Cairo Declaration) but even there, there is freedom to choose and practice any religion.

    Would love to have the good Prof’s views on this at this forum. Any one care to invite him for a friendly discourse?

  2. avatar Burung Koel says:

    Professor Dr. Suyahmo of the Universitas Negeri Semarang (Unnes) said recently that human rights are basically universal and applicable to all but will take different forms in practical terms in each country, according to differing circumstances, history and culture.

    Every country is free to determine human rights values in accordance with their ideology.

    Dear Professor

    Something is either ‘universal’ or it isn’t.

    If each country can determine their own set of values, then we’re not talking ‘universal’.

    It will make the subsequent discussion easier if you could define your terms properly.

    Thank you

    (signed)

    Any One of Your First Year Students

  3. avatar andrey says:

    Who actually died and give western people right to decide what is universal and what is not?
    If we say it does not apply to us, then it is, by definition, not universal. not the other way around.

  4. avatar DumadiSatrio says:

    andrey,
    It is not a “western” document.
    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a UN charter
    The following countries voted in favor of the Declaration: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, , Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Thailand, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
    It is also not a binding document.
    The drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represented the first time in history that people from cultures throughout the world worked together to formulate a comprehensive and common vision of inalienable human rights.

    I dont feel there is anything in the document that would have a problem with:
    http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/inz.htm
    (it would be a good idea to actually read the document in question, before disagreeing with it)

    I think it would be unfair to brush it away as some “western” document.
    The man in the article seems to want to seek debate about it, which is more than fair.

    That is why, for the purposes of debate, it would be better to state the reasons you oppose its intent.
    That way a better dialog can be built, which will help people both nationally and internationally work towards a more universal concept of Human Rights.

  5. avatar Cukurungan says:

    Article 18 of the Universal Declaration is set out below;
    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

    While the most western world only could give artificial freedom to manifest the religion or belief for their citizen, in the contrary, Indonesia move one step head of the western world, because , we give our citizen the actual freedom of choice to manifest their belief or religion , in respect of those real freedom therefore, we also give freedom for FPI to destroy Ahmadiyah or any one who dare to change and modify Islamic Teaching.

    I dont feel there is anything in the document that would have a problem with:
    http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/inz.htm
    (it would be a good idea to actually read the document in question, before disagreeing with it)

    It seemed to me that it is only Indonesia alone whom fully comply with the essense of the universal concept of human rights.

    If the most human right western countries only give the right for people who believe

  6. avatar Roel says:

    In the books by Bung Karno The urgent need for unity among pulau lulauan is absolutely necessairy.

    On such a step is unity of language Bahasah Indonesia. Actually this is an asian esperanto.
    The Boers in Suid Afrika also tried a single language for unity. They did not choose esperanto but a dutch based Afrikaans (Which was used and developed as well to the malay population like Tuan Guru, an indonesian prince ) in the 70th. That was the reason for the Soweto uprising.

    One tacktic applied in waktu politionele actie was divide et imperia tactics (well written by followers of Kap. Westerling as used in french counter guerrillia techniques in Dien Bien Phu)

    Allowing so called universal principles in Bung Karno time could be harmfull for a country that needs to unite and prevent high level of federalism

    ” the indonesian way” must at all cost start with the imperative does it harm our unity. NOT is it against universal rules.

    If Indonesian unity is not in jeopardy, indonesian people can start to discuss about more topics of universal topics. However if “the West” uses the universality of arguments, there is no clear view on a hidden agenda. As long as Indonesian fears outsiders (in the west) have the intention to reduce indonesian unity and hide behind universal principles, the discussion can not start.

    If Indonesia has no reasons to fear for it’s unity. Such discussions could be hamil

  7. avatar andrey says:

    It is a western document, prepared in the after math of a world war won by western powers, by people who was selected by said western powers. I bet they only invite “moderate” muslim to the writing.

    Ok, nevermind who wrote it. Lets concentrate on the word “universal”. The fact that multiple muslim countries actually get together to write another document that in some article (according to some people) contradict the former is proof enough that it is anything but universal. Anything really “universal” will be agreed upon by every culture/people on the planet, anything less is just a forced universality, whether it was by the barrel of a gun, or by economic aid.

  8. avatar mirax says:

    A query : is it possible to leave Islam in Indonesia without any legal penalties? How does one go about it?

  9. avatar Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    @ Roel

    On such a step is unity of language Bahasah Indonesia. Actually this is an asian esperanto.

    Fyi (in case you are not aware), the minority Melayu were put in governmental position by the Brits and the Dutch. The power-that-was even favoured Bahasa Melayu (Bahasa Indonesian) over Bahasa Jawa as main language for the nusantara. The excuse being Javanese was too complicated to be used officially.

    When the bule invaders were driven out, Bung Karno had wanted to revert our official language to Boso Jowo, but that would mean bloodshed with the Melayus. To show leadership as custodian of the great Malay race and pribumi solidarity, it was never brought to pass.

  10. avatar DumadiSatrio says:

    @andrey: I still dont get it….what about it do you have a problem with?

    It seems that the overall meaning of “universal human rights” is that we are all in fact humans. That being said, we can universally understand empathy.
    If a freedom stated there in was denied to you, would you think it unjust? If you would think it unjust, then can you justify denying it to someone else?
    Simple Empathy is all that is needed.
    If there is a good reason to deny said freedom, make the case for it.
    In other words….what exactly bothers you about the sentiment of the document?

    also, please understand, I am not making any critic or anything like that, I am simply asking as to gain a better understanding, so please dont be defensive.

  11. avatar andrey says:

    actually, it boils down to this: do people have the right to harm themself?
    some countries like netherland say the do, so they let their citizens have euthanasia.
    some other countries, including USA, say that this is one of the limits of individual freedom, even if it does not disturb other people. Try posting a chat message about your suicide plan on the internet in USA. In no time the police will come and perhaps take you to an institution “for your own safety”. Another example is indonesian crackdown on narcotic drug “usage”. You actually get jail term for taking something that will only destroy your own life, even if you don’t disturb other people.

    For the same reason, muslim authorities are obliged to prevent their subjects from comitting apostasy.

  12. avatar DumadiSatrio says:

    Why hung up on this part:
    “this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief”

    There is an article on the main page about 200 Tengger hindu people changing religion to Islam. I know muslims who became hindus, christians who became buddhist, and so forth……We all know it happens, so what is big deal?
    Also, you cant legislate one’s actual beliefs anyway.

  13. avatar David says:

    is it possible to leave Islam in Indonesia without any legal penalties? How does one go about it?

    There are certainly no legal penalties, nothing to stop anyone legally, except when, or more likely if, you try to have your religious categorisation on your ID card changed, the officials (and I think you’ll have to go through many levels of them) may be unwilling to change it, or it might just be a little expensive to do.

  14. avatar DumadiSatrio says:

    “muslim authorities are obliged to prevent their subjects from comitting apostasy”

    The muslim “authorities” have “subjects”? Really?

    Is there not no compulsion in religion? Are you saying that the Quran is incorrect?

    Some might say that When a religion is good, it will support itself; and but it does not support itself and God does not care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, that it has become corrupted.

  15. avatar andrey says:

    DumadiSatrio:
    we are not living in an pure individualistic world, where people can do what they want if they feel the want to. in every society in this world there are limits to individual freedom, a limit that vary from place to place, culture to culture. My problem with that particular document is that it was written to a large extent according to the limits of freedom in western societies, which, although in some area iit can overlap with other cultures, is not universal.

    Freedom of speech for example.
    For muslim, a speech insulting prophets is against the law.
    Freedom of religion?
    Muslims do believe that there is no compulsion for non muslim to be a muslim. But, muslim apostating is not acceptable according to the overwhelming majority of scholars.

    So are you saying that because some western people decided that every body should have a certain right,
    other cultures must conform?

  16. avatar andrey says:

    Some might say that When a religion is good, it will support itself; and but it does not support itself and God does not care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, that it has become corrupted.

    Well too bad if Islam does not fit some people’s idea of an ideal religion. But that is their problem.

  17. avatar diego says:

    @andrey:

    You started from a false assumption when you said: “For the same reason, muslim authorities are obliged to prevent their subjects from comitting apostasy.”.

    Read the paragraph that came before it. So you’re saying: apostasy (particularly from Islam) is a harmful thing to do? Care to explain: in what way?

  18. avatar DumadiSatrio says:

    @andrey:

    So you are saying that people who leave islam should be killed?

    Ok, now take the Empathy test…..

    If the USA passed a law that anyone who converts to Islam is to be killed, would you say that that is unjust?

  19. avatar DumadiSatrio says:

    @andrey: I dont mean to harp on this….I am just saying that the over all problem here is that you are basically talking about “Thought Crime”.

    It is simply not possiable to legislate a person’s beliefs.

  20. avatar Suryo Perkoso says:

    You can say that again, but moreover there is not enough space on my KTP to say ISLAM/YAHUDI, I know, I tried.

  21. avatar andrey says:

    Read the paragraph that came before it. So you’re saying: apostasy (particularly from Islam) is a harmful thing to do? Care to explain: in what way?

    Well for starters apostates will go to hell. Are we going to take the risk that he will complain to his God that he went away from the right path because we let him to? and thereby opening ourself to the possibility of having to take his place in hell?

    @DumadiSatrio:
    I didn’t say anything about killing.

    Legislating thoughts is not actually an alien concept in western countries, there is/was legislations against unfavorable thoughts, from galileo and copernicus, up to modern historians who does not believe that the holocaust ever happened. Usually it is not about making him changing his belief, but more to prevent him from contaminating other people’s mind. If you keep your subversive thought to your self, there will be no problem, even in Iran.

    But this is beside the point.
    I was just showing that some of those ideas claimed to be universal are not really universal, at least not naturally, because if it is we will not be having this discussion.

  22. avatar Suryo Perkoso says:

    Could you run that by me again? I managed to find the key to the vodka cupboard – as possibly you did too.

  23. avatar DumadiSatrio says:

    “actually an alien concept in western countries,”
    Why do you keep speaking of western countries? What Germany or England does is not relevant to this debate.

    The difference when dealing with religion in this manner, is that you create hypocrites as well. You would basically be forcing one to lie…..to God. If a muslim person has truely come to believe in christian religion, would it not be better for them to live as an honest sincire christian than an insincire fake (and resentful) muslim?
    For what does God dislike more than a hypocrite?

    “those ideas claimed to be universal are not really universal, at least not naturally”

    Then lets continue the dialog, and work towards a more perfect unity.
    I would say that the underling intent is infact naturally universal,as it is built upon empathy. The golden rule. Do unto others as you would have done on to you.
    I think you misread my writing above dealing with religious dogma and the civil power
    Seek truth, and preach your truth, give guidance to others, but do not oppress.

  24. avatar sputjam says:

    @ all
    Last thing a muslim would want is to convert to another religion like christianity.
    The koran did not promote any religion or ritual worship.
    It was merely a guide to solve some problems in a just manner and a guide to blissful living.
    It is not like sun tzu’s “art of war”.
    It also relate some stories of previous prophets, to which we may relate and use it to guide our lives.
    There is no compulsion in beliefs. Every man for himself.
    But the best in the eyes of God are the righteous.

    “And We have come to them with a Scripture which We have detailed with knowledge; a guide and a mercy to those who believe.” (The Message 7:52)

    Those who beleieve are not the people of the muslim religion.
    Although the Koran was delivered to an arab messenger, The koran was not meant for the arabs which it describes as a race of hypocrites. It was more for the jews and the christians. The story of Moses and Jesus are more detailed than any other prophets including Mohamed.
    The word “Bani israel” is more prevalent than any other race, informing them to comply with what Moses and Jesus had instilled in them. The present jewish religion is not what Moses and Jesus had in mind.

    The human rights charter on beleifs comply with what the koran indicated.

  25. avatar Mansorak says:

    Dear All,

    What the professor actualy means is that, Indonesia don’t have a real democracy.
    Indonesia should not talk about human rights, because the people haven’t got any right.
    There is just one right and that is the MILITARY right!!

    For example the situation in WEST-PAPUA(and East Timor in the past).

    (Reminder befor you answer me, know the history and the fact!)

  26. avatar Rob says:

    What are universal human values?

    Who determines them?

    This reminds me of the assertion once made, and still maintained, by Mahatir that there is such a thing as Asian values and these differ from Western values. I think he was referring primarily to the characterization of values from individual and communal perspectives.

    I think as human beings we share universal human values and basic rights. However, this is premised on an understanding of some core values and some peripheral values that may or may not be agreed.

    On topic though, the question is does Pancasila guarantee freedom of religion or more to the point does the amended Constitution of 1945 provide a constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. Indonesian arguably does not support the value of freedom of religion as encapsulated in the UDHR because people are not free to choose any religion that they want, including not to choose a religion at all. However, one does have a choice of religions in Indonesia.

    It is worth pointing out that changing your religion in Indonesia and getting that change recognised on your KTP is, as Patung suggested, a lot of bureaucratic hoop jumping. Not impossible, but rather time consuming and expensive (although based on regulations it should probably be neither).

    But when it is all said and done, it does not matter whether you are from the East or the West or from the North or the South, we are all human beings with some basic human rights. Hopefully, these include a right to live in peace and to have that peace respected by others.

  27. avatar hary says:

    dear audrey,
    Indonesia readily adopted the UN Declaration when we freely chose to become a member of the United Nation. We are bound by the Declaration. It matters not whether it is a western document.
    If we didn’t agree, we should have simply added a reservation to say that we would interprete the Declaration in our own country’s context. We said no such thing. As a matter of international law, the Declaration binds Indonesia.
    In any case, I find nothing objectionable in the Declaration, western or otherwise.
    i accept that the price of free speech is to listen to your dribble as well.

  28. avatar PrimaryDrive says:

    Hmm … point me to the section in the Constitution that says that a citizen is REQUIRED to have a religion.

    As far as I understand it, religion is your right, but not obligation. There is a section that says that the nation is based on “ketuhanan yg maha esa”. This sentence is open wide for interpretation, but even then it only refers to the nation rather than individual citizen.

    It is true, that it is commonly told in in Indonesia, that everyone has to have a religion. But that’s really not what the Constitution says.

    As for what some people remarked about difficulties in getting KTP if you change religion, that’s crap (sorry Patung 🙂 If you’re within the law, and have the right attitude, you can get your paper works done and without any bribe. This is told from first hand experience.

  29. avatar farya_marukh says:

    See this is the problem with Indonesia: we think that truth is something that already been there, put on earth by God or other alienated object that (supposedly) proven untouchable.

    Oh, come on… religion is an organization competing for voters, they’ll talk whatever suits you, that’s why some religion smelled, tasted, and looked like arabian, jewish, western, or east & central asians. It’s not the other way around, seek it (for the facts) yourself…

    we should inject philosophical studies to kindergartens not just religious studies… Indonesian must be critical about the so called “Truth”… The Truth is always ongoing journey…

    taken from wiki (articles about Open Society)…

    (Karl) Popper’s theory that knowledge is provisional and fallible implies that society must be open to alternative points of view. An open society is associated with cultural and religious Pluralism. Open society is always open to improvement because knowledge is never completed but always ongoing. Claims to certain knowledge and ultimate truth lead to the attempted imposition of one version of reality. Such a society is closed to freedom of thought. In contrast, in an open society each citizen needs to engage in critical thinking, which requires freedom of thought and expression and the cultural and legal institutions that can facilitate this. Democracy are examples of the “open society”, whereas totalitarian, dictatorship, theocracy, and autocratic monarchies are examples of the “closed society”.

  30. avatar Oigal says:

    So are you saying that because some western people decided that every body should have a certain right, other cultures must conform

    I would think that certain basic rights such as the right to worship as one sees fit (OR NOT) providing it does not intrude on anyone else..is basically a no brainer.

    As for this Westerner claptrap…ok lets see how many Mosques were approved for building in say the US, UK and Australia then compare with say churches in say Iran, Malaysia and Indonesia.

    It could well be agrued that western countries in general have been far too non-judgemental in not insisting upon some conformity to the existing culture. Perhaps they should adopt the more xenophobic asian and middle east model.

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