Radical Islam in Indonesia is on the march, and the religious pluralism enshrined in the doctrine of Pancasila is coming under direct attack. Last week the Indonesian government has issued a joint ministerial decree telling the heretical Muslim Ahmadiyya movement to ‘stop spreading interpretations and activities’ which deviate from orthodox Islam. That decree has implications for other minorities as well, including liberal and reformist Muslims, and the moderate Wahid Institute (named for former president Abdurrahman Wahid) says the country is on the brink of becoming an Islamic state.
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This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying speakers.
Maya Muchtar on the Jakarta violence, June 1st
Merle Ricklefs on the Ahmadiyya and Indonesia
Ananda Krishna on religious pluralism in Indonesia
Stephen Crittenden: Welcome to the program.
Compared with Senator Belinda Neal and the goings on at the Iguana-Joe’s nightclub, today’s story on The Religion Report is really a very trivial matter.
Last time I looked on Google, there were around 1400 stories on Belinda Neal, but you won’t find our little story on the front page of The Australian or The Sydney Morning Herald. Instead you’ll have to go to an editorial in last week’s Manila Times.
‘A fascinating fact about Indonesia … is that it has the world’s largest Muslim population but remains a secular state. Recent events, however, could indicate that Indonesia might cease to be a secular state before long.’
Well, you may remember that a few weeks ago on this program we reported on the growing tensions in Indonesia around a minority Islamic sect called the Ahmadiyya, and the campaign by radical Muslim groups to have them banned, a campaign which has seen an Ahmadiyya mosque burned to the ground in Western Java.
Political Islam has been on the rise in Indonesia for some time. Our story goes back at least as far as July, 2005, when Indonesia’s Ulema Council, the council of Islamic scholars, issued a series of fatwas not just against the Ahmadiyya, but against pluralism and liberalism in general.
On June 1st, the day Indonesians celebrate their national pluralist ideology of Pancasila, a rally in Jakarta organised by moderate religious groups in support of tolerance and pluralism was attacked by a Muslim mob armed with sticks, and many people were injured.
Then last week, the Indonesian government issued a joint ministerial decree, not banning the Ahmadiyya, but ordering them to ‘stop spreading interpretations and activities which deviate from orthodox Islam’. The decree also has implications for Liberal Muslims and for non-Muslims. His has caused alarm for supporters of pluralism, the moderate Muslim Wahid Institute, named after the former President, Aburrahman Wahid, has warned that Indonesia is on the brink of becoming an Islamic state.
Let’s begin with the march on June 1st.
Jakarta-based Maya Muchtar is a Muslim. She chairs the organising committee of the National Integration Movement, a group that advocates for religious pluralism and she arrived at the Pancasila Day rally in Jakarta on 1st June just after the attack occurred.
Maya Muchtar: I was going on my way there when I received a telephone from my friends who were there already. They said that there’s not going to be a parade because we’ve been attacked. I said, What do you mean we’ve been attacked? They said The radicals have been attacking us and beating us up and we are all scattered around. So I panicked and I started calling people up and then telling them that they have to come back to our office, because the rally was supposed to – we should call it a parade because it was supposed to be a very peaceful parade – and they were supposed to start at 1400 hours. But it was only 1310, and then everything was like chaos already. It happened so fast, my friends were like in the middle of preparing everything, they were just gathering. There was supposed to be like 12,000 people joining this parade, but then there were only 1500 of us when the attack occurred.
We were there from various organisations, the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion consists of like 50-plus organisations, and my organisation, that is National Integration Movement is one of them. And we were supposed to invite all the children of Indonesia to come and join us and to remind the nation that even though our country, our nation, consists of so many people from various religious backgrounds and various education backgrounds, but we remain together, we remain united. Unity and Diversity, that’s the symbol of our country, and it’s all consisting in the Pancasila.
Stephen Crittenden: I understand that a number of people were very seriously hurt. A guy from the Liberal Islam Movement had his nose broken, there are even people with brain damage.
Maya Muchtar: Yes, that’s true. Actually the people with brain damage is my friend from the National Integration Movement, and it’s a she, because the radicals claim that they have not had any children or any women, and that is not true at all.
Stephen Crittenden: Who led the attack? What groups were involved?
Maya Muchtar: The men who led the attack is Munarman. He was a rights activist, a champion turned Muslim hardliner, and this Islamic troop command consists of several other Islamic organisations such as Islamic Defenders Front (or you can call them FPI in Bahasa Indonesia), and then there is also the HTI ( Hizb’ut Tahrir Indonesia). But most of them are from the Islamic Defenders Front. That is why the people are mostly demanding the Islamic Defenders Front organisation be disbanded.
Stephen Crittenden: And Munarman, this leader you’re talking about, he’s been detained by the police, but not yet charged.
Maya Muchtar: Yes, actually he’s supposed to be charged because he has violated several laws, but it’s not clear yet what is his situation now. Tomorrow I heard that there is going to be also a big rally that the radicals are trying to support him to be released from gaol.
Stephen Crittenden: Were the Ahmadiyya involved in the parade?
Maya Muchtar: Yes, they were Ahmadiyyas also involved in the parade, but the radicals have been trying to shift the attention of the public that this is all about the issue of the Ahmadiyya, but that is not true.
Stephen Crittenden: What’s it really about?
Maya Muchtar: The violation and the humiliation and insult to our national ideology of Pancasila, because they are trying to have Indonesia to become a one religion, that is Islam. Since the last ten years, they have been behaving that they’re like the law; above the law. They’ve been ransacking bars and all that, because they say it’s not according to the Islamic law. But in Indonesia there is no Islamic law.
Stephen Crittenden: And so how do you see the future of Indonesia now? The future of religious freedom and pluralism in Indonesia?
Maya Muchtar: If the government, especially the President, is not being clear enough on his vision, meaning that he’s not being stern about anything, this is going to grow worse, because there has been movement trying to overthrow the national ideology, Pancasila, to a Sharia law, meaning Islamic law, and this means that anybody else in this country that is non-Muslim is going to be like set aside. And I as a Muslim myself, I disagree with all that. I feel humiliated and insulted, that what this Islamic Defenders Front has been doing, attacking people, in the name of Islam, in the name of religion, I think it’s a blasphemy.
Stephen Crittenden: Maya, thank you very much for being on the program.
Maya Muchtar: Thank you so much, Stephen.
Stephen Crittenden: Maya Muchtar, of Indonesia’s National Integration Movement.
Well now to a distinguished western authority on the history of Islam in Indonesia. Professor Merle Ricklefs, who until 2005 was Director of the School of Asian Languages and Societies at Melbourne University. He’s now Professor in the Department of History art the National University of Singapore.
Professor Ricklefs, welcome. How do you read what’s been going on in Indonesia in relation to religious freedom and pluralism over the past few weeks?
Merle Ricklefs: Well Stephen, there are several streams which have come together and really culminated in the violence on 1st June in Djakarta. On the one hand there is the discomfort about Ahmadiyya itself, that’s a religious movement, and that has quite a long background throughout the Islamic world, and they were effectively declared non-Muslims in Pakistan in the ’70s for example, and thus generated a long history of animosity towards the Ahmadiyyas. We could talk about what the origin of that is, too. But there’s also been within Indonesia in the last several years, and particularly in the last 7 or 8 years, a rising tide of street violence, intimidation by extremist groups who say they’re acting in the name of Islam but of course lots of other large Islamic organisations deny that they’re doing anything of the sort. So within the devout Islamic organisations and communities, there has been an increasing level of violence from some wings, on the other hand resistance to ??? violent opposition to it. So these things begin to come together in a situation in which you now have a government in Indonesia, a central government, which is really quite weak. It’s weak because of the policy of decentralisation so the powers in the hands of the central government have been much reduced. And it’s weak also in the sense that the President, who everyone thinks is a decent chap, is very timid about taking decisions on major issues. So this meant that the initiative passed to the extremists in the streets.
There have been a series of legal opinions by the Islamic Scholars’ Council, the Majlis Ulama in Indonesia, which has said that the Ahmadiyyas are heretics or non-Muslims, and the extremists of the Islamic Defenders have taken that as licence really to approve violence against them. The government said it would come out with a statement dealing with this matter, and then postponed it and postponed it over several weeks, trying to obviously just split the difference, find some way to get off the hook, and the President himself trying to avoid taking any position whatever, and he’s still trying to avoid taking any position whatever. And finally they came out with this joint ministerial decision. But in the meantime on 1st June there had been this terrible violence in Djakarta where a peaceful demonstration of the National Alliance for Freedom of Religion was about to hold a demonstration, or a rally, really, to celebrate Pancasila Day, the national philosophy, and they were attacked by the Islamic Defenders when they’d brutally beaten up women, children, everybody, beaten with sticks, several people hospitalised, no-one killed, fortunately. There are reports that another fairly extremist organisation called the Hizb’ut Tahrir although extremist in views which had never in the past been involved in violence, but there are reports that Hizb’ut Tahrir people were also involved in that.
Stephen Crittenden: This is the infamous Hizb’ut Tahrir with branches in Sydney and London.
Merle Ricklefs: Yes, branches in Sydney and London, and in Europe, regarded as a terrorist organisation, but not in Indonesia. I mean Hizb’ut Tahrir has always been open to dialogue and debate in Indonesia, and all of their views are – you might even say their views are extreme, they want an international universal caliphate, they’ve never been involved in violence before in Indonesia, so I’m still uncertain whether those reports are true.
Stephen Crittenden: Well you’ve raised so many issues there that we can take up, but let’s deal first, as you suggest, with the Ahmadiyya. Who are the Ahmadiyya? Are they a high profile group, or in Indonesia are they in fact a low profile group?
Merle Ricklefs: In Indonesia they’ve been very low profile, and that’s the key to the whole story here, because this attack on the Ahmadiyya is very possibly the first step towards an attack on a very big organisation in Indonesia. But let’s look at the Ahmadiyyis first. This is a 19th century movement, arose in Pakistan, its founder was a chap called Ghulam Ahmad, hence the name Ahmadiyya , and he claimed to have had a direct revelation from God and that God addressed him as a prophet, as a “nabi”.
Stephen Crittenden: QED Mohamed is not the last prophet.
Merle Ricklefs: Well this is precisely the problem. This is the point on which the whole issue has revolved. Ghulam Ahmad himself always said that Mohamed was the last prophet, the seal of the prophet, but it was inconceivable that God would leave his community without further prophetic guidance. So he said that he was a further prophet, but still the prophet Mohamed was the seal of the prophets and the law-giving prophet. And in Indonesia now the Ahmadiyyis have attempted to defend themselves by saying that Ghulam Ahmad was a nabi (prophet) but not the “rasul”, not the messenger of God, and of course the Islamic confession of faith says that Mohamed was the rasul of God. And the Ahmadiyyis themselves split around the time of the First World War, Ghulam Ahmad was dead by then, he died about 1908 from memory. They split into two branches, one of which regards Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet, and the other which regards him simply as a renewer of the faith, and in Islamic traditions, believe that in each century there will be a renewer but not a prophet.
Now in Indonesia, there are actually two organisations. Both of these branches exist and it is only the branch which claims Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet, which has been affected by the Joint Ministerial Degree. The other one, the governors made clear, the other organisation which simply regards him as a renewer of the faith, is not affected by that. I can guarantee you that that subtle distinction makes no difference at all to the thugs in the streets who call themselves Islamic Defenders Front.
Now the other thing about Ahmadiyya is that from the beginning it’s been quite an active missionary movement. It’s been very active in missionising among Christians, among Hindus in India, but also it’s certainly regarded other Muslims as being, well themselves, virtually infidels because they didn’t have the story right. So it’s been a highly intellectual movement; many of the works you might take up in English about Islam published in the 20th century would turn out to be Ahmadiyyis, highly intellectual, highly educated, very fervent in their missionising work, so this means that they have the high profile internationally, but in Indonesia where they’ve existed since the 1920s, because the hostility from the ’60s and ’70s onwards they’ve maintained a very low profile, and it’s a small organisation. We don’t actually know, or at least I don’t know how many Ahmadiyyis there are in Indonesia, the figures vary enormously from one source to another, but probably a couple of hundred thousand.
Stephen Crittenden: Now let’s move to what the government was trying to achieve with this edict against Ahmadiyya last week. Some people have suggested it was an attempt at compromise, that nothing will really change. Others are concerned that it could usher in more street violence, and in fact that it could have important implications for other religious minorities and even for groups like the Liberal Islam Network.
Merle Ricklefs: Yes indeed. Well the decree itself is first of all, I mean it is extraordinary isn’t it, the government has the power to ban an organisation under the Indonesian constitution, Indonesian laws, if it threatens stability and peace and harmony and so on. The Ahmadiyyis have never done that. Now one would think that if you were going to have a decree on those grounds you would of course act against the organisation causing the violence, not the victims of it. And there are people who are saying “Well what the government should do is outlaw the Islamic Defenders Front”. That’s not what they’ve done. What they’ve said is to say first of all they want everybody in the country to say they are not allowed to spread any interpretation of religion which tends to disgrace or dishonour that religion.
Stephen Crittenden: In other words, the government’s setting itself up as a defender of orthodoxy and not just a defender of Islamic orthodoxy.
Merle Ricklefs: That’s exactly right.
Stephen Crittenden: Now is that unprecedented?
Merle Ricklefs: Well it is unprecedented in that general sense. There is a precedent before, and I want to come back in a minute to the organisation called the L.D.I.I., which is extremely important. Nobody’s mentioned it, but this is in fact probably the main target of the extremists. Going back to your point about this decree, indeed the government now says it will decide what is orthodox Islam, but it’s couched in such a way that it could decide, if some Christian organisation came along and said These people aren’t proper Christians, or some Hindu organisation, the government would under this decree, claim the right to decide what was proper Hinduism, or proper Christianity, and the whole thing is really quite bizarre. Who decides what is proper Islam? Who tells you what you can believe? And now we’re being told the government can. And the other one of course is the political issue. How do you get the government to take such a position? Well the evidence of I suggest, you do it by using violence, by intimidation, and then the government will bet scared enough to take some action. So there are a lot of implications here which are really quite worrying for freedom of religion.
Stephen Crittenden: The moderate Wahid Institute named after former President Wahid, says following this edict, that Indonesia is on the brink of becoming an Islamic State. How seriously should we take those concerns?
Merle Ricklefs: Well I think those statements should be taken seriously, but the point is, constitutionally, all of this is deeply questionable. So I expect, certainly from the Wahid Institute, but probably from other organisations, very likely from the Maarif Institute , and very possibly from the National Commission for Human Rights. I expect to see legal challenges to the whole decree, in the Constitutional Court. And I suspect the Constitutional court, probably to rule this decree unconstitutional. Then the government’s going to be in a right fix, and the extremists will be out on the streets again. So the constitutionality of the whole thing is deeply questionable.
Stephen Crittenden: Let’s just assume that is what happens. One of the points that was made to me when I spoke to him yesterday by Ahmed Suedy, the Executive Director of the Wahid Institute, is that this could still end up being a win-win for the radical Islamic groups, because it will make this whole issue and the issue of the Ahmadiyya, an election issue next time round, and that we’re very likely to see the rise of Islamic parties in a way that we have not seen up until this point.
Merle Ricklefs: I think that’s possible, although we have to say that the history of Islamic parties in elections in Indonesia since the 1950s has been pretty steady decline. The other possibility, and I think this is a very real one, is that the use of violence by these groups, the manifest ability of these groups to intimidate government, will first of all lose SBY the election, but also very likely will make a lot of people say this is intolerable and turn them away from Islamic parties. I suspect you’re going to see a lot of social and political polarisation and polarization of course is always dangerous in a society, it could easily lead to violence.
But let me tell you briefly about this other organisation, the L.D.I.I.
Stephen Crittenden: This is the bigger organisation.
Merle Ricklefs: This is very big, and this is extraordinarily important because Ahmediyya is a tiny target; L.D.I.I. is a very, very big target. The founder of this organisation came back in the 19 late 40s from the pilgrimage in Mecca, claimed to have had direct revelation of the correct understanding of Islam, the correct way to teach it. And all other t Muslims were infidels. Now this organisation on those grounds, because it declares those others as infidels, claims to have a separate revelation, this organisation has been declared illegal. This is a precedent for me, from the 1950s, it was declared illegal in Indonesia and non-Muslim. It’s had a very interesting technique, it just changes its name and says Well, if you declared Organisation X illegal, we are now Organisation Y.
Stephen Crittenden: And what does L.D.I.I. stand for?
Merle Ricklefs: It’s the Lembaga Dakwah Islam Indonesia , so the Indonesian Islamic Propagation Institute. Now under the Soeharto regime, they tucked themselves under Golkars, and said We are a body loyal to Golkar, the government party, and thereby we’re protected. And under those circumstances they grew tremendously. So whereas there might be 200,000 Ahmadiyyis in Indonesia, if you go to villages, particularly in Central and East Java, in the countryside you will see in almost every village a sign saying Here is the L.D.I.I. Mosque; There is the L.D.I.I. Prayer House. And there has been violence in the past, but limited. Whenever Ahmediyya has been denounced by the Majlis Ulama, L.D.I.I. was also denounced in the same fatwas and if the extremists are going to tackle the L.D.I.I., they’re attacking an organisation with millions of members.
Stephen Crittenden: My guest is Professor Merle Ricklefs, from the National University of Singapore, one of the foremost Western authorities on Islam in Indonesia. And he’s the author of an important book ‘Polarising Javanese Society: Islamic and other visions 1830-1930’, and Professor Ricklefs, in that book you remind us that the Islamisation of Indonesia, the Arabisation one might say, has been going on for about 200 years.
Merle Ricklefs: Oh yes, indeed. But the important thing about that story you must remember, is that two things happened. Some people desired to adopt what they think is the more pure, more orthodox form of Islam, which on the whole is a more Arab-style of Islam, and those people tend to turn against local tradition and think local traditions are signs of ignorance and so on. But rather than winning over, the Indonesian pattern is, rather than winning over large numbers of people to their view, they win over quite a lot of people, everything in Indonesia is on a big scale, but they also generate very strong resistance and opposition. And so the story about the increasing radicalisation may be the wrong word, there certainly are radical characters in Indonesian history but a lot of it is simply very pious people trying to lead a more pious life as they understand it, but they have also generated people who say “Well look, that’s what Islam is and maybe I’m not very interested”. And just to give you one example: one of the places most subject to religious violence in Indonesia, religious extremism today is in Surakarta, in Central Java, where I’ve done a lot of research work. Surakarta if I remember my statistics correctly, in the early 1970s had something like 15% of the population was Christian. Now there’s been a lot of Islamic violence in the streets of course where Abu Bakir Bashir is where the military school is, now the percentage of population which is Christian is at least 26%. In other words, the opposition created is so great, it isn’t just people say Well I’m not that kind of Muslim, a very substantial number of people say “Well I’m not Muslim at all, I’m going to become Christian instead”. That’s the most extreme form of polarisation which has been driven, in my view, by religious extremism. But elsewhere you also see signs of this. The Ahmadiyyi case is a fine example because while the extremists mobilised, so did the liberals, so did the traditionalists, the traditionalist members of the Nadlatul Ulama have also been very opposed to these extremists, and prepared to fight them this week.
Stephen Crittenden: Former President Wahid said recently that the Indonesia Ulama Council, the Islamic Scholars Council, has too much power and that President Yudhoyono obeys its fatwahs as if they came from the Supreme Court. Back in the days of Soeharto, the Ulama Council was a part of government but it was under his thumb. How has it been able to achieve more power and influence?
Merle Ricklefs: Yes it’s extraordinary. It was set up in 1975 by Soeharto and meant to be a way of mobilising conservative Islam to support basically a very oppressive government, and it played that role for years. So it’s always been conservative, one might say reactionary in its religious views. But it is absolutely extraordinary that in recent years it isn’t just what the President does, if there’s an MUI (Majlis Ulama Indonesia) fatwah about something, you will find that policemen and police agencies in local areas will be regarded as having the force of legislation. Now that is absolutely extraordinary and has zero constitutional or legal foundation. But people began to think of the MUI as almost a legislative body.
Stephen Crittenden: A last question. What would Indonesia becoming an Islamic State mean internally for places like Bali or West Papua, or indeed Sulawesi where there’s so many Christians?
Merle Ricklefs: That’s right. And don’t forget that a substantial proportion of the population of central places like Java are Christian too. I think that if there was a serious attempt to create an Islamic State, unity in the entire country would actually be in question.
Stephen Crittenden: A major security issue for Australia.
Merle Ricklefs: Indeed it would be, yes. Australia needs a stable, coherent, reasonably happy and consolidated Indonesia, we don’t need a bunch of sort of contesting States on our northern borders.
Stephen Crittenden: Professor Merle Ricklefs of the National University of Singapore.
Bali-based Anand Krishna is the founder and leader of the Anand Ashrams, centres for meditation and study. As a prominent advocate for Indonesia’s religiously-pluralist constitution, he also writes for the Jakarta Post.
Anand, let’s start with the Indonesian governments Joint Ministerial Decree, published last week. What does it mean for religious freedom in Indonesia?
Anand Krishna: Well, it only gives the impression that the present government is very weak. And, for the radicals, this decree is a kind of test case, if they can get away with it, they can get other things also. So if we give in and if we accept this then we are giving a blank cheque to the radicals to fill anything.
Stephen Crittenden: I’ve seen some suggestions that the decree won’t just have an implication for the Ahmadiyya, it’s got implications for religious pluralism, more generally for minority religions in Indonesia more generally.
Anand Krishna: I fully agree with you, because the very first point in that is that nobody is now allowed to interpret any of the religious teachings. And if we interpret, then we have to comply with the so-called popular belief. So, whose interpretation do we have to comply with? Now, you cannot speak on any religious subject in public, in fear that it may not comply with popular belief.
Stephen Crittenden: I spoke yesterday to Ahmed Suedy from the Wahid Institute, and he’s been saying that this is a very dangerous time for Indonesia. He thinks Indonesia may even be on the brink of becoming an Islamic State.
Anand Krishna: It is not only an Islamic State but actually on the brink of becoming a Taliban State.
Stephen Crittenden: What would the impact on somewhere like Bali be? You’re in Bali. What would the impact be if Indonesia did become an Islamic State?
Anand Krishna: Right now, there are people in Bali who have already raised their voice for Free Bali. They say that if something like this happens – even yesterday I was talking to somebody – then Bali has to fight for its independence.
Stephen Crittenden: Anand, I understand you’ve written a letter to the United Nations.
Anand Krishna: Yes. I have written to the Secretary-General and I also have forwarded the copies to all the heads of states of the member states of UN and also to their representatives in Djakarta, also the international media, and I’m asking their help – a desperate call for help, I call it, – I’m asking for their help to pressurise my government, to make my President understand that, “Look, what is happening in your country is not in line with international human rights policies.” And we have ratified to that convention, and we have to stand by it.
Stephen Crittenden: Anand, in recent decades, the Islamic political parties in Indonesia have actually not done very well at the elections. Do you think an issue like the Ahmediyya issue, could play out during an election and bring those religious political parties more success at the next election?
Anand Krishna: Ah. I don’t know, because right now if I see the constellation of Islam-based political parties, they’re divided. There’s not a single issue where they really agree, except Sharia, and these Islamic parties also have their own individual interpretations again for Sharia. So I think it is going to be utter chaos. If they are getting something like 40%, 50% of the vote, for the sake of getting power they may join hands, but within one year or two years, I see utter chaos in this country. We will be divided in every region, every city will be divided.
Stephen Crittenden: In fact we’re seeing at the local level, we’re seeing Sharia being introduced in some places, aren’t we.
Anand Krishna: That’s right. In Padang in a school all the girls there are supposed to have headscarves.
Stephen Crittenden: This is in Western Sumatra.
Anand Krishna: Yes. This is in Western Sumatra. Now what about the Christian students, and the other Hindu students? What about Buddhist and other minorities? They are not supposed to wear headscarfs. They are not forced to do so. But when they come to their school, all their subject teachers, they look at them as if they are foreign creatures. They make them so shameful that the next day they come to the school with headscarves.
Stephen Crittenden: Anand, in recent years, there’s been a big umbrella movement created of NGOs that are moderate, that are in favour of pluralism, from all sorts of different backgrounds, in fact a lot of those groups were precisely the groups who were marching in favour of Pancasila on June 1st. That has come about to counter the rise of radical Islam. Where are all of those efforts now?
Anand Krishna: Well actually, one thing is sure. I am actually hopeful….. because when the chief of FPI – the Islamic Defenders front- was arrested – one of our Cabinet Ministers went to see him. And some of the political parties also went to see him. They sympathised with him. At least one thing has become clear. They have come out in the open now. So we know who are radicals and who are not. Before the 1st of June we did not know in our cabinet which ministers were sympathizing with the cause of the radicals. Now we know. So I have just one reservation which, and my sole concern is the Islamic moderates in my country, they’re not into the grassroots. The radicals are into the grassroots. They can address the grassroots, they can use their language, they can use their idioms and whatnot, and our moderates, they are intellectuals.
Stephen Crittenden: They’re more a middle-class movement?
Anand Krishna: Exactly, middle-class, they’re academicians, they’re intellectuals, it’s very hard for them to communicate or to open a dialogue with the people in the grassroots, with the farmers, the labourers and these are the people being affected by, being influenced by the radicals.
Stephen Crittenden: Last question. Are we going to see any of the umbrella groups that you are part of launching a legal challenge to this edict in the courts?
Anand Krishna: We are going to. We were already planning- the Alliance for Freedom of Religion- they have support from 200 lawyers. They will file a court case. The court must listen to us also.
Stephen Crittenden: Leading activist for religious pluralism in Indonesia, Anand Krishna, bringing our program to an end for this week.
Thanks to producers Noel Debien and Charlie McCune. Goodbye now from Stephen Crittenden.
Chair of the organising committee of the National Integration Movement, in Jakarta.
Professor in the Department of History art the National University of Singapore
Founder of the Anand Ashrams, Founder of the National Integration Movement