MUHAMMADIYAH.OR.ID, UTAH – Abdul Mu’ti, General Secretary of Muhammadiyah, mentioned several points on the opportunities and challenges of religious freedom in Indonesia at the 30th Annual International Symposium on Law and Religion held by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, United States on October 1-3.
According to Mu’ti, religious freedom is guaranteed and regulated by the Constitution, such as the first principle of Pancasila and Article 29 (1) of the 1945 Constitution. Every individual has the right to practice their chosen religion, and the state does not prohibit atheism or agnosticism as personal beliefs. However, if these beliefs are promoted to others, it is considered illegal.
“Having a faith is an individual’s right, but declaring a religion is a public matter. In a national identity card, according to the law, someone may and may not mention their religion with all the consequences,” said Mu’ti.
He explained that Indonesia is a “secular-religious” country. Pancasila, as the foundational philosophy of the state, is “secular,” the principles of Pancasila are derived from the values of Indonesian culture, and these values are not against religious teachings.
Meanwhile, in the nation’s life, religion has an equal and highest position in all aspects of human life, government, and governance. Government policies, laws, regulations, and social life – even personal affairs – must not be in contrast to religious teachings and values. For example, adultery and gambling are illegal, even though they may be common and legal in many countries.
According to Mu’ti, Indonesia’s efforts to guarantee religious freedom are affirmed by ratifying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The state facilitates the adherents of religion to practice, develop, and teach their respective beliefs.
In schools, the students’ right to receive religious education is protected by Article 12 of Law Number 20 of 2003. This education is taught by teachers of the same religion as the students. The state also values faith in marriage, medical care, child guardianship, and other public services.
Besides, Mu’ti outlined several challenges to implementing religious freedom in Indonesia. Although religious freedom is guaranteed through the above articles, he believes the community does not have its rights “legally.”
For example, Government Regulation Number 55 of 2007 and the Minister of Religious Affairs Regulation Number 16 of 2010 confine religious education to only the six religions officially recognized by the state.
“According to Minister of Education and Culture Regulation Number 27 of 2016, individuals who follow a religion have the right to receive religious education in accordance with Law Number 20 of 2003. However, Government Regulation Number 55 of 2007 and Minister of Religious Affairs Regulation Number 16 of 2010 exclude adherents of religions other than the six “protected” religions, such as Judaism, Baha’i, and others from receiving religious education. While their existence is acknowledged legally, they are excluded from the Regulation,” said Mu’ti.
“Similar problems are also experienced by adherents of the six “practiced” religions whose number of students is less than fifteen. If the number of students of a particular religion is less than fifteen, religious education is not taught in schools but by religious communities outside school. For “pragmatic” reasons, these students ultimately prefer to follow the religious education that is available at school. This means that they are studying religious education that is different from their religion,” added Mu’ti.
Another challenge to religious freedom is the application of Article 2 of Law Number 1 of 1974 on Marriage. The statement of the validity of marriage according to the religion of the spouses shows respect and state guarantees for the practice of religion. However, in practice, this article can render problems.
“When considering marriage between individuals of different religions, there may be complications. Various religions have different teachings regarding interfaith marriage. In Islam, there are differing opinions among scholars. Some refer to the Quran al-Baqarah verse 221 to argue that Muslims cannot marry non-Muslims, including both unbelievers and People of the Book (ahl al-kitab). However, other scholars contend that Muslim men may marry Jewish women, while Muslim women are forbidden from marrying Jewish men or unbelievers, based on the Quran al-Maidah verse 5. According to article 40 and 44 of the Compilation of Islamic Law, only Muslim men and women are allowed to marry,” said Mu’ti.