The Threat of Multiculturalism in Indonesia

Changes in the political system in Indonesia that occurred in 1999 has shifted the Indonesia’s political system from bureaucratic-authoritarian into an open democracy. As a democratic country, the nature of society becomes more open and the public has ample opportunity to voice their opinions, either individually or in groups, and public participation in formulating a certain policy has increased. However, huge public participation sometimes carries own problems in the community. On behalf of the majority, certain groups often impose their views to other groups. Although their number is not enormous but they are very active to express their opinions. People get justification that their views are true.

This situation could create difficulties for Indonesia in the future, especially for the existence of multiculturalism in Indonesia. Therefore, serious efforts should be promoted to preserve Indonesia as a multi-culture nation (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika).

Current Situation

In 2011, Komaruddin Hidayat, the rector of the State Islamic University’s (UIN) Syarif Hidayatullah campus said that Indonesia was becoming increasingly conservative religiously as a result of the instability that emerged after Suharto’s fall, with radical Muslim groups taking advantage of economic, political and legal vacuums that exist under Indonesia’s new democratic system. This suggests that the radical Islamic movement is more psychological than philosophical.

Most Islamic groups in Indonesia are affiliated with two biggest mass Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah. They are moderate and mainstream associations. But it is believed that Indonesia is becoming increasingly conservative religiously. Open democracy in Indonesia has caused politicians have been uneasy to establish strong law and order. It makes some radical groups have filled the situation by taking the law into their own hands. In the previous era, the state could forcibly suppress radical religious movements. Furthermore, some of the more radical organizations do not want to be part of the state system. They have become even more radicalized on the periphery.

The best way to manage such groups is through economic progress. Indonesia’s rampant unemployment for creating an atmosphere in which extremists may easily recruit supporters. It is observed that Indonesia has been fairly impervious to foreign attempts to export radicalism. However, transnational radical organizations could gain momentum if Indonesia’s democratic experiment fails.


Maintaining Tolerance

 Greg Sheridan, a foreign editor of The Australian, wrote an article on March 10, 2016 regarding Islam in Indonesia. He said that Islamic State propaganda polluting the internet and enticing gullible young people the world over. In Indonesia, in terms of structure and networks, terrorists are getting weaker and smaller and losing support among Indonesian Muslims.

When an act of terror was happened in Sarinah in January 2016, the attitude of the Jakartans for terrorist acts are simply staggering. Several terrorists committed suicide bombings and were involved in a gunfight with the police. Eight people died in that attack including four militants, who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group. However, their attacks had failed and the people can not be terrorized. People around the scene looked have a great curiosity and showed fearless compared to what happened in other countries. The attempts to create horror among wider community in Jakarta brought miserable failure.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla at the the opening of the International Summit of the Moderate Islamic Leaders on 9 May 2016, said that youths who don’t have deep faith are susceptible to be militants, not for wealth or political cause, but rather as a “shortcut” to heaven. He called on Islamic leaders to spread messages about a tolerant Islam to curb extremism that often springs from misinterpretation of Islamic teachings. In this regard, the role of Islamic clerics is needed to do more to correct the misinterpretation.

Extremism which is happened in Indonesia and radical acts in other parts of the world are the results of wars at home against authoritarian governments in the name of democracy, which caused the future of their people to fall in the darkness. Therefore, overcoming radicalism and terrorism requires the unity and integrity of the whole component of the nation.

The teaching of Pancasila for young generation must be accentuated to contain extreme teachings. In his speech to commemorate of Pancasila birthday at Merdeka Building, Bandung, West Java, on 1 June 2016, President Joko Widodo expressed that Pancasila has important meaning for the Indonesia’s nation. Pancasila is the base that made Indonesia remain united in the midst of global conflict development. President Joko Widodo hopes that in the future, the people of Indonesia continue to hold fast to Pancasila to face threat of terrorism that is haunting the entire of the world.


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