Monday, February 13, 2006

when religion becomes sin

Interesting Editorial in The Jakarta Post, 13 February 2006. My best quote is "Moral goodness is in one's heart, proven through daily actions. It can never be simply founded in a book of laws which the insidious can interpret to justify the politics of the day"
The irony of democracy's cacophony is that the resulting liberty often gives birth to the freedom to be intolerant.

There can be no greater prejudice in this country than one based on religious chauvinism.

It is a case of the fervent few manipulating a passive majority.

These experiences teach us not to put stock in the false messengers of organized religion who excuse the lunacy of fanatics. Holiness is respect for all and the courage to stand up for helpless minorities.

Moral goodness is in one's heart, proven through daily actions. It can never be simply founded in a book of laws which the insidious can interpret to justify the politics of the day.

Imagine Bali adopting bylaws based on strict interpretations of the Hindu faith, or the Christian majority in Papua taking advantage of its special autonomy privileges to embrace Christian conservatism as a legal precept to regulate daily life.

No doubt Muslims throughout Indonesia would be up in arms.

Why then are our politicians acting so obliviously to the legal misnomers that have resulted in the unnecessary employment of shariah law by regional administrations? -- a practice which blatantly contravenes the 2004 Regional Autonomy Law.

Regencies and mayoralties such as Padang, West Sumatra, Cianjur, West Java, and Bulukumba, South Sulawesi, have issued bylaws implementing sharia. Conservatives in other regions are also making headway in their attempt to impose their religious views as law.

This development is, perhaps, a telling sign of the political elite's (lack of) commitment to the Constitutional vision of pluralism and equality before the law.

It is one thing if these people are true ideologues, but we fear they are mere opportunists instead -- those who would forward narrow-mindedness in society for the sake of short term political success.

They exploit society's longing for equality, justice and decorum by stoking religious fervor, all the while neglecting the fact that morality and justice have nothing to do with the application of religious laws per se.

Islamic values, and those of most major religions, are universal. It is already ingrained within the spirit of the 1945 Constitution, which includes respect for all irrespective of their faith (or lack of it).

We find no significant violation of the Islamic spirit in the laws of this land. On the contrary most actually reinforce the moral spirit of Islam.

That laws do not advocate public whippings, the amputation of a thief's hand or obligate public alms does not make national laws un-Islamic.

It is those who would coerce women to wear headscarves and deny them the right to be treated equally, who, we believe, are morally deficient.

By placing Islam as a focal point these regions are doing this great religion a disservice. It defies Islam's very egalitarian premise of purging discrimination.

Needlessly glorifying shariah law as a political object encumbers the religion with categorical outcomes when the end results fall short of the intent, as they often do.

It is the same as erroneously equating Islam with terrorism or the fact that a great many corruptors in this country proudly use religious titles before their name.

There's nothing wrong with the religion, it's the people who claim to be Muslims who are wrong!

The crux of the matter lies in our failure to recognize a distinct separation of religion from the state.

Indonesian society remains enamored by declarations of faith, while vilifying those who are morally cogent yet refuse to use their religion as political commerce.

In 1945 our forefathers made a visionary decision to uphold secular laws over ones which could potentially discriminate and split the fragile unity of this nation.

It is a cherished foresight, which a nation still vying for greatness should never lose sight of.

There can be no alternative now but for the highest judicial bodies of this land -- the Constitutional Court -- to strike down discriminative and religion-based regulations which local administrations have no authority to issue.

Articles 28D and 28I of the 1945 Constitution states that everyone should be free from discrimination and entitled to equal treatment before a just law.

Law No. 32/2004 on Regional Autonomy clearly stipulates that religious affairs are the realm of the central government. Article 28 of the law forbids regional administrations from taking decisions that discriminate against any citizen.

The core values of Islam are already alive and well in the hearts of all good Muslims. They need no boasting from politicians seeking to please an audience.

Failure to rectify these trespasses would be a moral, Constitutional and, dare we say, religious sin!

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