Author: Dewi Kurniawati

2019 elections: Another test of Indonesian democracy?

Dozens of people involved in the 2019 election have died. They were members of the polling station working committee (KPPS) and police who had reportedly suffered from exhaustion after working long hours to count the ballots after”the most complicated single-day election in the world”.

The news is shocking because the election went peacefully. The question worth asking is: Why? Is the sacrifice worth it?

The simultaneous elections, in which voters had to cast five ballots at once, were intended to save cost and time, but it appears that the General Election Commission (KPU) did not anticipate how long the counting process would take at the polling station level.

The KPU conducted a simulation on how long it would take for each voter to cast five ballots in each booth, which is about five minutes. But it seems they did not anticipate how long it would take for each polling station to count all the ballots.

If at least 190 million people voted in the April 17 elections, there are at least 950 million ballot papers that must be counted. The results from each polling station is recorded in the C1 form, to make its way into KPU’s total ballots count.

Imagine just how daunting the work must have been.

Some friends who helped at the polling stations said that they had to work around the clock. Although it is clear that their dedication is inspiring, the high death toll should prompt the KPU to reevaluate the conduct of a simultaneous elections such as this.

Should the next legislative and presidential elections be held on the same day again? One life lost is too many.

What is at stake?

The 2019 presidential election is a repeat of 2014 elections, in which Joko “Jokowi” Widodo beat Prabowo by a narrow margin. This time around, Jokowi is expected to win 54%, a slight improvement from 53.15% in 2014.

Just like in 2014, Prabowo claimed that he won the election and alleged widespread attempts of fraud throughout the elections. Even in the lead-up to the elections, the opposition camp has raised publicly the prospect of the elections being rigged in favour of Jokowi.

Tensions have risen in recent days amid fears that Prabowo will resort to mobilising his supporters to revolt over the election fraud allegations, which remain unproven.

Although for some people, the plot thickens.

Rumours about seven containers of ballots pre-marked for Jokowi went viral on social media during the campaign period. A week before voting day, the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) reported that bags of ballots pre-cast for Jokowi had been found in two warehouses in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

As an icing on the cake, former People’s Consultative Assembly chairman Amien Rais went so far as threatening for “people power” if the elections were rigged.

Fearing for a possible post-election unrest, chiefs of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and the National Police issued a joint warning that “anarchic acts” and attempts to undermine the electoral process would be dealt with sternly.

Prabowo has been an active participant of national elections three times, but this year’s election appeared to have been the last straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

After the reformasi movement brought down Soeharto in 1998, Prabowo was forced to end his military career due to accusations that he was involved in the disappearances of pro-democracy activists. He moved to Jordan after being dismissed from the military and returned to Indonesia two years later to start a new life as a businessman.

In the 2009 election, Prabowo was picked as the running mate of Megawati Soekarnoputri, reportedly on the agreement that she would back Prabowo as a presidential candidate in 2014. But instead, Megawati picked Joko Widodo (whom she often referred as “the party’s officer), who successfully ran in the gubernatorial election two years earlier, on Prabowo’s backing.

It appears that the perceived betrayal has angered Prabowo, who during campaign rallies often railed against what he called the “untrustworthy political elite in Jakarta”.

Prabowo’s political failures over the past decade could reach a boiling point when combined with the dissatisfaction of some hardline Islamic groups with the current government’s policy which they perceived as anti-Islam.

Black flags with the shahada inscription often associated with the Hizbut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) could be seen during Prabowo’s campaign rallies, despite the government’s decision to ban the organization.

It was for this reason former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose Democratic Party backed Prabowo in the election, reportedly expressed concerns about visible religious symbols at Prabowo’s rally at the Bung Karno stadium on April 7 and called it “too exclusive.”

It is our hope that Prabowo’s grudges, coupled with the encouragement of Islamic groups who also feel oppressed by Jokowi’s government, will not degenerate into “people power.” After all, despite the 21 years of experimenting with democracy, the memories of 1998 unrest continue to haunt us.

The 2019 election will be a test: has Indonesia as a nation grown more mature in exercising democracy? Can allegations of fraud and other irregularities be resolved constitutionally and with dignity?

These coming days will be recorded in the annals of history. Are we moving forward or backward?

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Pemilu serentak 2019: ujian bagi demokrasi Indonesia?

Sampai saat opini ini ditulis, sudah puluhan orang yang terlibat dalam pelaksanaan pemilu 2019 meninggal dunia. Mereka adalah anggota KPPS maupun POLRI yang kabarnya didera oleh kelelahan karena harus bekerja secara simultan menghitung hasil suara dan mengamankan jalannya pemilu yang disebut sebagai “paling rumit di seluruh dunia” ini.

Kabar duka tersebut sungguh membuat kita terhenyak dan prihatin. Puluhan orang meninggal bukan dalam konflik atau kekerasan, melainkan justru dalam sebuah pemilu yang berlangsung relatif damai. Mengapa bisa sampai demikian? Apakah ini sesuatu yang normal dan layak dianggap sepadan?

Saya kira Komisi Pemilihan Umum (KPU) pun tidak menyangka bahwa pemilihan yang awalnya dirancang untuk menghemat biaya dan waktu dengan cara menggabungkan pemilihan legislatif dan presiden secara bersamaan, justru akan memakan banyak korban karena proses penghitungan yang sangat lama, mengingat 190 juta lebih pemilih harus mencoblos lima surat suara sekaligus.

Seingat saya, dalam persiapannya KPU hanya melakukan simulasi tentang berapa lama waktu yang diperlukan bagi setiap pemilih untuk mencoblos di setiap bilik, yaitu sekitar lima menit. Sepertinya KPU tidak melakukan simulasi berapa lama setiap TPS akan menghitung surat suara yang sudah dicoblos tersebut.

Jika minimal ada 190 juta pemilih pada pemilu kemarin, maka setidaknya ada 950 juta lembar surat suara yang harus dihitung! Untuk kemudian dibuat rekapitulasi dalam bentuk formulir C1, dan sesudahnya harus dikawal sampai hasilnya bisa dihitung oleh KPU pusat.

Bayangkan betapa lelahnya para petugas KPPS.

Beberapa teman yang membantu di TPS mengatakan bahwa mereka bekerja dari pagi sampai pagi lagi agar bisa menyelesaikan tugasnya. Sungguh luar biasa dedikasi dan pengorbanan mereka bagi kelanjutan demokrasi Indonesia.

Kejadian ini harus menjadi perhatian khusus dan evaluasi bagi KPU, apakah pemilihan legislatif dan presiden selanjutnya akan kembali digabung? karena sesungguhnya, satu nyawa pun tidak boleh menjadi korban untuk suatu hal yang seharusnya bisa diperkirakan sebelumnya.

Peserta pemilu dan Pertaruhan Demokrasi Indonesia

Pemilihan presiden 2019 merupakan kilas balik pemilu 2014, baik pesertanya maupun yang terjadi sesudahnya. Kita semuanya seperti mengalami de já vu.

Seperti yang diperkirakan oleh beberapa lembaga hitung cepat, petahana Presiden Joko Widodo diperkirakan menang dengan kisaran suara 55%, sementara Prabowo Subianto mendapatkan sekitar 45%. Hasil ini sebenarnya sebuah peningkatan, karena ketika memenangkan pemilihan presiden 2014, Jokowi hanya mendapatkan 53,15% suara.

Seperti pada tahun 2014, Prabowo yang saat itu berpasangan dengan Hatta Rajasa juga melakukan klaim kemenangan yang disertai dengan sujud syukur. Pada pemilu kali ini, Prabowo bahkan sampai melakukan tiga kali pidato kemenangan, dengan klaim telah meraih 62% suara.

Yang mengkhawatirkan pada pemilu 2019 adalah semakin menguatnya isu SARA, penyebaran kabar bohong (hoax) dan kemungkinan konflik akibat pengerahan massa (people power) atas klaim kecurangan pemilu.

Seperti sebuah pra-kondisi sebelum pelaksanaan pemilu 17 April, narasi bahwa pemilu akan diwarnai dengan kecurangan sudah dimunculkan ke publik. Dimulai dengan kabar hoax tentang tujuh kontainer surat suara yang sudah dicoblos, disusul dengan beredarnya video surat suara yang dicoblos untuk Jokowi di Malaysia, sampai ancaman untuk pengerahan people power dari politisi senior Amien Rais.

Sebagai jawaban, panglima TNI memberikan warning cukup keras kepada publik, bahwa pengacau pemilu yang disebutnya akan “mengancam jalannya demokrasi” akan berhadapan langsung dengan kekuatan TNI.

Prabowo yang sudah tiga kali menjadi peserta aktif pemilu sepertinya sudah “sangat geram” dengan kompilasi situasi politik yang dilaluinya sejak 1998. Ketika gelombang gerakan yang menuntut terjadinya pergantian pemimpin nasional akhirnya berhasil menurunkan Presiden Suharto (yang juga mantan mertuanya), karir militernya terhenti akibat tuduhan penculikan aktivis pro-demokrasi sehingga ia harus pindah ke Yordania memulai hidup baru sebagai pebisnis.

Pada pemilu 2009, Prabowo maju sebagai calon wakil presiden Megawati Soekarnoputri, dimana terdapat sebuah perjanjian antara keduanya bahwa pada pemilu 2014, Megawati akan ganti mendukungnya maju dalam pilpres sebagai calon presiden.

Namun seperti yang kita semua ketahui, alih-alih mendukung Prabowo maju sebagai capres pada pilpres 2014, Megawati justru memunculkan Joko Widodo (yang sering disebutnya sebagai “petugas partai”), dimana ironisnya pada pemilihan gubernur Jakarta 2012 lalu, Jokowi berhasil terpilih setelah dibiayai oleh Prabowo.

Saking geramnya dengan tikung menikung dalam dunia perpolitikan, dalam berbagai sesi kampanye-nya Prabowo sering menghujat “elite politik Jakarta” yang bahkan disebutnya sebagai bajingan.

Kegeraman Prabowo yang sudah berkali-kali gagal dalam pemilu selama satu dekade terakhir ini, sepertinya bisa saja berakhir tragis karena “bersambut gayung” dengan gerakan lain yang juga kesal dengan pemerintahan Jokowi selama hampir lima tahun terakhir ini.

Seperti kita ketahui, bendera hitam yang identik dengan lambang Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) sering berkibar dengan bebas di kampanye Prabowo, walaupun telah dilarang keberadaannya sebagai sebuah organisasi di Indonesia. Pasca pelarangan HTI, Jokowi sering disebut sebagai “pemimpin anti Islam”, sehingga pendukung dan gerakan yang menonjolkan identitas Islam yang makin menguat mengambil posisi di kubu Prabowo.

Dalam kampanye akbar terakhir sebelum pemilu (7/4) di Gelora Bung Karno, mantan presiden Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono yang berada dalam barisan partai politik pendukung Prabowo juga dikabarkan tidak setuju dengan konsep kampanye Prabowo yang disebut sebagai “terlalu eksklusif” dan tak lazim, dimana kampanye tersebut dimulai dengan sholat berjamaah pendukung yang memenuhi GBK, dilanjutkan dengan zikir dan shalawat.

Koleksi kegeraman Prabowo terhadap sekumpulan elite yang disebutnya sebagai bajingan, ditambah dengan dorongan kelompok Islam yang juga merasa dizalimi oleh pemerintahan Jokowi, semoga tidak berlanjut dalam bentuk people power. Walaupun selama 21 tahun kita sudah memilih jalur demokrasi dan melaksanakan reformasi, ingatan akan sejarah kelam 1998 sepertinya masih sangat lekat, sehingga setiap ada pihak yang menyebut “people power”, otomatis ingatan kita menuju pada memori 1998.

Mungkin dalam sejarah pemilihan umum di Indonesia, tidak ada satupun pemilu yang diawasi dengan sangat ketat oleh masyarakat secara langsung seperti pemilu 2019 ini. Media sosial penuh dengan kekhawatiran akan kecurangan, sehingga foto formulir C1 bertebaran dimana-mana. Bahkan selisih suara di beberapa TPS pun membuat KPU harus segera mengakui dan memperbaiki, karena kredibilitas KPU sebagai penyelenggara pemilu yang sedari awal sering dituduh berpihak, akan menjadi taruhannya.

Pemilu 2019 akan menjadi sebuah ujian: apakah Indonesia sebagai bangsa telah semakin dewasa dan matang dalam berdemokrasi? Apakah kecurangan, ketidakpuasan, dan sebagainya dapat diselesaikan secara konstitusional dan bermartabat?

Hari-hari ini, sampai dengan dilakukannya evaluasi pelaksanaan dan diumumkannya hasil resmi pemilu oleh KPU secara aman dan damai, akan menjadi sebuah catatan dalam sejarah demokrasi Indonesia.

Apakah kita akan maju, atau malah mundur?

74 peluru senapan angin bersarang di tubuh orangutan Sumatera


Seekor orangutan ditemukan terluka parah di provinsi Aceh dengan 74 peluru senapan angin bersarang di tubuhnya, kata para pejabat pada hari Rabu (13/3).

Orangutan yang diperkirakan berusia sekitar 30 tahun tersebut, telah diselamatkan pada Sabtu pekan lalu di kabupaten Subulussalam dengan kondisi patah tulang, memar dan luka di kakinya, kata Sapto Aji Prabowo, kepala Badan Konservasi Alam (BKSDA) pemerintah daerah Aceh.

“Foto X-ray menunjukkan 74 peluru senapan angin tersebar di seluruh tubuhnya,” katanya.

Sementara itu, keterangan dari Kementerian Kehutanan dan Lingkungan juga menambahkan bahwa bayi orangutan berusia satu bulan yang ditemukan bersama induknya tersebut telah mati karena kekurangan gizi ketika dibawa ke pusat rehabilitasi di provinsi Sumatra Utara.

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Kritis, Orangutan Sumatera Ditembak 74 Peluru di Aceh Balai Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam (BKSDA) Aceh melakukan evakuasi orangutan sumatera (Pongo abelii) di kebun warga tepatnya di Desa Bunga Tanjung Kecamatan Sultan Daulat Kota Subulussalam setelah mendapat laporan dari masyarakat, Sabtu (9/3). Tim BKSDA Aceh bersama dengan personel WCS-IP dan HOCRU-OIC turun ke lokasi dan berhasil mengevakuasi dua individu orangutan terdiri dari anak dan induknya, Minggu (10/3). Dari pemeriksaan awal di lapangan, diketahui bahwa induk orangutan dalam kondisi terluka parah karena benda tajam pada tangan kanan, kaki kanan serta punggung. Selain itu didapati juga kedua mata induk orangutan terluka parah karena tembakan senapan angin. Sedangkan bayi orangutan yang berumur 1 bulan, dalam kondisi kekurangan nutrisi parah dan shock berat. Tim kemudian bergegas membawa kedua orangutan tersebut ke Pusat Karantina Orangutan di Sibolangit, Sumatera Utara, yang dikelola Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) melalui Program Konservasi Orangutan Sumatera (SOCP), untuk dilakukan perawatan intensif. Namun dalam perjalanan anak orangutan mati diduga karena malnutrisi. Dari hasil pemeriksaan x-ray di Pusat Karantina Orangutan, ditemukan peluru senapan angin sebanyak 74 butir yang tersebar di seluruh badan. Kondisi orangutan masih belum stabil sehingga masih akan berada di kandang treatment untuk mendapatkan perawatan intensive 24 jam. Induk orangutan sumatera berusia sekitar 30 tahun tersebut selanjutnya diberi nama HOPE yang berarti “HARAPAN”, dengan harapan, Hope bisa pulih dan bisa mendapatkan kesempatan hidup yang lebih baik. KLHK mengecam keras tindakan biadab yang dilakukan oleh orang-orang yang tidak bertanggung jawab yang menganiaya satwa liar yang dilindungi. BKSDA Aceh telah berkoordinasi dengan Direktorat Jenderal Penegakan Hukum LHK, untuk mengusut tuntas kasus kematian bayi orangutan sumatera dan penganiayaan induknya, di Subulussalam ini. KLHK mengucapkan terima kasih kepada seluruh mitra dan masyarakat yang membantu dalam evakuasi orangutan HOPE. . Sumber foto: YEL SOCP, OUC, dan BKSDA Aceh #saveorangutan

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Induk orangutan dengan 74 peluru tersebut saat ini berada dalam kondisi cukup stabil dan telah diberi nama Harapan (Hope). Beberapa peluru juga bersarang di salah satu mata Hope, sehingga menyebabkan kebutaan total.

“Kami mengutuk serangan biadab terhadap orangutan yang dilakukan oleh orang-orang yang tidak bertanggung jawab,” kata Kementerian Kehutanan dan Lingkungan dalam sebuah pernyataan di Instagram.

Kelompok konservasi World Wildlife Fund (WWF) mengklasifikasikan orangutan sebagai spesies yang “sangat terancam punah”. Jumlah mereka sekitar 111.000 di alam liar, terutama di pulau Sumatra dan Kalimantan.

Para pakar konservasi mengatakan, kelangsungan hidup spesies orangutan sangat terancam oleh perburuan liar dan perusakan habitat mereka melalui proses deforestasi yang dilakukan oleh pihak-pihak yang tidak bertanggung jawab.

Religion may sway Jakarta’s second round election

Millions of Jakarta residents are set to cast their votes in a heated second-round gubernatorial election on April 19 that is both a test of secular democracy in Indonesia and of President Joko Widodo’s political clout in delivering back to office one of his chief lieutenants, the incumbent, an ethnic Chinese-Christian, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.

Arrayed against Ahok is Anies Baswedan, a former education minister supported by conservative Muslims. He is backed by the powerful political machine of Prabowo Subianto, the president’s chief rival in the 2014 election, as well as several Islamic organizations that have capitalized on the discontent and said they will create equality for the city’s poor.

The race is considered too close to call according to recent opinion polls. A survey conducted on April 12-14 by polling firm Indikator showed Anies with 48.2 percent support versus 47.4 percent for Ahok, with 4.4 percent undecided. The Jakarta-based Charta Politika survey showed that 47.3 percent of nearly 800 respondents favored Ahok and deputy governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat while 44.8 percent supported Anies and running mate Sandiaga Uno, a businessman.

The race has been complicated by a blasphemy case filed against Ahok over comments he made last September on the Quran that were deemed insulting to Islam in what is regularly described as the world’s most populous predominantly Muslim country. The Jakarta governor, in a public speech, said there are people who deceive Muslims into believing the Quran commands them not to vote for Jews and Christians.

That resulted to massive street protests by conservatives in November and December, with continuing rallies and protest as the runoff has neared, an indication of the growing conservatism among Indonesia’s Muslims.

Although he has apologized for the remarks and at one point broke into tears publicly, Ahok was charged with blasphemy, which many regard as a political use of the courts, and faces a maximum five-year jail term if found guilty. He remains free and a verdict is expected after the election, after the police asked the court to postpone the reading of charges.

Jokowi, as the president is known, has thrown his political resources into the race to aid Ahok, who was his deputy governor when he rose to the presidency in October of 2014 and subsequently took over the job.

Ahok won a three-way first-round vote on Feb. 15, securing 43 percent of the votes, while Anies Baswedan came second with 39 per cent. However, after the first-round election, congregants in some areas in Jakarta installed banners calling for Muslims not to vote for an “infidel.” The banners also warned that those who did so would not receive Islamic rites when they died.

“Honestly, I am confused of whom to vote for, unlike the presidential election in 2012 when I was confident of voting for Jokowi,” Indriaty Octarina, a housewife in South Jakarta told The Parrot. “What I want from a governor is someone who can deliver good results, anti-corruption, firms with all regulations so that we can have a better Jakarta,” she said.

“I think Ahok is doing a good job as a governor, but obviously he has a problem of controlling what’s coming out of his mouth; he is too arrogant” Octarina said, adding that although Anies Baswedan is not her favorite either, when it comes to religion, she wants to “be a good Muslim and follow Islamic teaching,” a belief that the Quran commands her not to vote for Jews and Christians as leaders. “Most of my family members feel the same about this election,” she said.

Octarina’s story is shared by millions of Muslim voters in Jakarta, who despite agreeing that Ahok is doing a good job as governor, won’t vote for him in the coming election. A research by Pollmark Indonesia recently shows that as many as 21.6 percent of voters say that their vote will be based on their religion.

As many as 7.9 percent of respondents remained undecided according to face-to-face interviews conducted between April 7 and 12 by pollster Charta Politika.

Ahok, the first Christian to lead Jakarta in 50 years, has been perceived as an effective administrator in a bureaucracy long plagued by corruption and incompetence. He has implemented a raft of infrastructure projects including parks and transport, with efficient services becoming commonplace after decades in which political hacks ruled the sprawling city. He has won praise for cleaning up rivers clogged with rubbish, thereby reducing annual flooding in the capital city of 10 million people.

His administration has also built more parks and children’s playgrounds.
However, he has caused resentment with his decision to evict poor residents from their riverbank homes and relocate some of them to low-cost apartments, where they have to find rent money despite having been separated from their source of income. He has also drawn criticism for going ahead with a plan for the reclamation of Jakarta Bay to create 17 artificial islands, which has been criticized as benefitting the Chinese conglomerates and adding to the economic inequality in the country.

Meanwhile, the Jakarta Police released announcement on Monday prohibiting mass mobilization that could result in physical or psychological intimidation of voters on April 19. KPU Jakarta commissioner Dahliah Umar said too much security might make citizens feel uneasy when they come to polling stations to cast their votes.

Does MUI fatwa on homosexuality help shape how Indonesians see LGBT community?

By Irwan Martua Hidayana*

Talking about religion and homosexuality can be like mixing water with oil. They don’t go well together.

Discourses on homosexuality are part of religion’s long history, particularly among Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Broadly speaking, these religions do not tolerate homosexuality and consider it a sin. Although there are exceptions within those faiths. Even Pope Francis, who has spoken out against same-sex marriage, has said that people “shouldn’t be marginalised” just because of their sexuality.

Last year, Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body, the Council of Indonesian Ulema (MUI) issued a fatwa (an Islamic legal edict) condemning homosexuality. This came around the time the Indonesian government carried out a flurry of executions of drug traffickers on death row, which prompted international pressure against Indonesia’s policy on the death penalty. In its edict, the MUI suggested that same-sex relations to be added to the list of crimes punishable with death.

The MUI also recommended the government to set up rehabilitation centres to cure “perverts”. They argued that perversion is increasing in the society. Aside from sexual molestation, the MUI included homosexuality as perverted.

Reaction from LGBT community

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Indonesia has responded to the fatwa in a calm manner. Suara Kita (Our Voice), an LGBT rights organisation, wrote on its website that the MUI has a right to its opinion as much as Suara Kita has the right to dismiss the fatwa.

Aside from the calm response from the LGBT community, what are the implications of the MUI’s edict in the struggle for LGBT rights in Indonesia?

Indonesia and LGBT rights

While more and more countries acknowledge the rights of LGBT people through same-sex marriage laws, Indonesia actively obstructs international advancement of LGBT rights.

In 2014, Indonesia, along with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, was one of the countries that opposed the passing of a UN Human Rights Council LGBT resolution.

Indonesia does not explicitly ban same-sex relations in its criminal code. However, under Indonesia’s anti-pornography law, homosexuality is defined as a sexual deviance.

The sharia-ruled Aceh province in Sumatra bans same-sex relations, with a sentence of up to 100 public floggings. Palembang, another province in Sumatra, also criminalises same-sex relations with a penalty of up to six months imprisonment.

Fuel for discrimination

The MUI’s fatwa will most likely not be implemented in Indonesia’s legal system. Indonesia’s religious minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said he did not agree with the MUI. He argues homosexuality is an individual’s choice.

But the fatwa’s existence may be used by religious vigilante groups to attack Indonesia’s LGBT community. Islamic edicts from the MUI are not legally binding. However, the state and Muslim society in Indonesia often use a fatwa to solve Islam-related matters. Lawmakers often refer to MUI fatwas in drafting many state laws, such as the law on halal products and hajj management.

Even though the fatwa is not legally binding, for some Muslim conservatives it is more than enough to ban homosexuality in public spaces. It can become a foundation for many policies and practices that reinforce hetero-normative and binary gender systems.

Religious vigilantes have previously attacked events organised by LGBT groups. In 2010, they attacked the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) conference in Surabaya and the Q!Film Festival in Jakarta. In October 2010, the MUI urged the national censorship board to ban any movies that promote homosexuality.

Through the fatwa, the MUI label homosexuality as a sin, unnatural and immoral. By releasing edicts, the MUI tries to play a role as Indonesia’s morality police and the guardian of the faith of Muslim society.

For the MUI, the objection to homosexuality is definite, without room for critical discussion. Many Muslim people follow the MUI’s line of thinking and believe that homosexuality has no place in Islam. Criticising its view of Islam can be perceived as opposition to Islamic law.

The change role of the MUI

The MUI is a non-government Islamic organisation established by the late president Suharto in 1975. Suharto used the organisation to gain political support from diverse Islamic organisations.

When Suharto established the MUI, there were many Islamic groups that were political with the intention to replace the state ideology Pancasila with Islam. A key role of the MUI was to convince other Islamic organisations to accept Pancasila as state ideology. Accepting Pancasila would mean abandoning their political intention of establishing Islam as a state ideology. The Islamic groups would have to recognise pluralism as inherent in Indonesian society.

After the fall of Suharto’s dictatorial rule in 1998, political Islam began to re-emerge. This has affected the way the MUI responds to socio-religious problems in Indonesia.

The MUI has since become more in favour of Islam and moved away from the notion of pluralism. It seems to ignore Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity), the national motto. It attempts to impose its authoritative interpretation of Islam on Indonesian society.

For instance, in 2005, the MUI issued a fatwa that banned pluralism, secularism and liberalism. The MUI view pluralism the same way as it views syncretism (the combination of different forms of belief or practices) and religious relativism: as a threat to Islamic belief, as it can lead to heresy.

Beyond dividing society into ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’

By issuing the recent fatwa, the MUI categorised members of the LGBT community as —to borrow philosopher Judith Butler’s term – the abject. The creation of the abject aims to ensure “normal” behaviour. The boundaries between “normal” and “abnormal” are always scrutinised by the family, school, community, state apparatus and religious institutions. To make the “abnormal” conform to social norms, they are stigmatised, marginalised and attacked.

However, LGBT communities and organisations in Indonesia have shown that they refuse to be labelled as the abject or “abnormal”. They continue to fight for their rights. What keeps them going are lessons from past experiences of other movements and solidarity from other human rights groups.

The MUI is not the only voice on Islamic interpretation in Indonesia. There are a number of Muslim scholars who are critical of the MUI’s strict interpretations of Islam. For example, noted Islamic scholar Musdah Mulia has proposed a humanist interpretation of Islam. In 2009, she argued that there is a room in Islam for gay, lesbian and other non-normative sexualities.

Mulia’s view on Islam is based on the central principles of justice, virtue, equality, wisdom, compassion, pluralism and human rights. These leave no place for discrimination and hatred. For Mulia, the reinterpretation of Islamic texts must be done contextually, not literally, with reference to the true objective of Islamic legislation.

By adopting this view of Islam, talking about religion and homosexuality will no longer feel like mixing oil and water

*This article was first published by theconversation.com

Indonesia needs to move beyond security measures to fight terrorism

By Noor Huda Ismail*

Indonesian police have named a convicted terrorist, Afif Sunakim, as one of five perpetrators of Islamic State-linked bombings and shootings in Jakarta that killed eight people, including four attackers, last month.

Indonesia is considering amending its counter-terrorism laws to respond to the phenomenon of returned foreign fighters from Syria.

But fighting terrorism purely through security measures will not be enough. Indonesia should devise policies to rehabilitate and monitor former convicted terrorists to prevent recidivism. The government should also work with civil society to counter the spread of extremism online.

Preventing recidivism by ex-terror convicts

The Indonesian police have arrested more than 1200 people on terrorism charges, according to data from the counter-terrorism unit. Some convicted terrorists seemed to become more radical behind bars. At least 40 convicted terrorists have re-offended after release.

Afif Sunakim was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to seven years in jail for his role in a militant training camp in Aceh. In prison, he became the masseuse for Aman Abdurrahman, one of Indonesia’s most influential jihadi ideologues and a vocal promoter of Islamic State (IS).

My series of interviews with terrorist recidivists suggests that the majority of them believe that jihad is a religious obligation. In a purely linguistic sense, the word “jihad” means struggling or striving. It can refer to the internal as well as external struggle to be a good Muslim. However, for terrorists, jihad means to fight against Indonesia’s secular regime.

There is a common understanding among jihadists that if they are imprisoned, they are simply taking leave. Upon release, they will be ready to rejoin the movement. With this kind of belief, no matter the situation former terrorist inmates face, there is a big chance they will return to their terrorist groups and carry out further attacks.

A prominent terrorist, convicted in 2004, is an example of such recidivism. He was released in 2008. He was then involved in weapons training in Aceh in 2010. In his opinion, as long as what he believes in is right, he will have no other option than to act, whether inside or outside prison. He said: A committed mujahideen will not be limited by any condition or situation beyond himself.

Additionally, there is a desire among convicted terrorists to experiment or retry what they failed to achieve. A convicted terrorist now on the run after a prison break in Medan was involved in the Lippo Bank robbery in Medan in 2003 and again in the CIMB Niaga Bank robbery in 2010. He said: If jihad acts fail, it is most likely that improved jihad acts will be tried again later.

The choice for a released convicted terrorist is stark. Do I return to the pathway of jihad or do I re-enter society to follow a normal life? If he lives in a difficult social and economic situation, with a lack of education and a family that does not support him, it is most likely that a former terrorist inmate will return to the jihadist community, where he will be protected and cared for.

A 2013 report by the Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict showed that Indonesia’s judicial system has insufficient funds, infrastructure and resources to handle the successful rehabilitation of former terrorists. This lack of post-detention care leaves terrorist inmates at risk of returning to violence, because they are not being properly assessed. They do not receive sufficient re-programming to prepare them to return to mainstream society.

Indonesia needs to set up special placement, supervision, development and rehabilitation programs for former terrorists. The government must train corrections officers to actively engage with former inmates, to support them in finding a new calling in life and to mentor them while doing so.

Countering radical narratives online

The second challenge is to stop IS spreading extremism over the internet.

IS propaganda has created a hype and fad among Muslim youths around the world about a fantasy idea that violent armed struggle against non-Muslims and Muslims identified as “enemies of Islam” is a “jihad” that requires urgent participation.

IS has also created a false hope and a perception that the perfect government system based on the purest Islamic principles has been implemented and is working – but that it still requires Muslims from “impure” Muslim and non-Muslim lands.

Until now the Indonesian government – let alone civil society – has made no systematic effort to challenge the arguments of jihadists on social media. The jhadists are cleverly targeting individuals at risk, mainly young people. These at-risk people tend to spend their time online rather than offline and enjoy being “liked” on Facebook.

If extremists have successfully employed social media to spread their message on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we also need to create a campaign on social media to counter their movement. We can take a closer look at how “creative” extremists use technology to spread their ideology by monitoring their videos and reading their tweets and online posts.

With the help of civil society, the Indonesian government could launch campaigns on social media to challenge the extremist narratives.

Terrorism is rooted in a belief in an extreme ideology. If we want to prevent acts of terror from happening again, we should strive to prevent the young from being won over by extremists’ messages. We should also find a way to change the minds of those convicted of terrorism so they will not return to their old ways.

Noor Huda Ismail is a PhD Candidate in Politics and International Relations, Monash University. This article was first published by theconversation.com

Indonesia needs creative economy law to spur job creation

By Muhammad Faiz Aziz*

Indonesia should put in place a law on the creative economy to allow businesses in the sector to operate with legal certainty.

Supporting the growth of the creative economy will spur job creation, an answer to the country’s problems of rising inequality, youth unemployment and exploitation of Indonesian workers abroad.

What is the creative economy?

Indonesia lists 15 industries as part of the creative economy: architecture; art; craft; design; fashion; video, film and photography; interactive games; music; performing arts; publishing and printing; computer services and software; television and radio; research and development; and culinary.

These industries have the potential to provide much-needed jobs in Indonesia. The World Bank has reported that, despite sustained growth in the past decade, Indonesia is facing rising inequality between rich and poor. Only 20% of Indonesia’s population benefited from the country’s growth, while 200 million people are struggling.

Large numbers of Indonesians of productive age have low education levels. Many are stuck in low-wage informal jobs.

Some work as migrant workers in countries such as Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. Indonesia migrant workers are overworked according to The International Labour Organisation. Some undergo torture and rape. More than 200 migrant workers are facing the death penalty abroad.

The growth of the creative economy may help reduce the unemployment rate in Indonesia, perched at around 7.39 million people or 6.35% of the total workforce. In 2014, 7.1% of Indonesia’s GDP came from the creative economy, absorbing up to 12 million workers.

The popularity of IT-based start-up businesses that provide apps for transportation services in Indonesia, such as Go-jek, Grab Bike, Grab Taxi, Uber, Blue-Jek and Lady-Jek, is a great example of the creative economy’s potential.

Go-jek, which connects motorcycle taxi drivers with passengers, has now attracted 200,000 motorists, half of them in Jakarta. Motorists who uses these apps have reported a two to three times increase in income.

Go-jek plans to expand the app for other services such as housecleaning, massage and salon services through Go-Clean, Go-Massage and Go-Glam. These three apps have potential to recruit domestic workers, therapists and hairdressers to provide house cleaning, massage and salon services on demand, and would potentially increase their incomes.

Countries such as Australia and the United States have expressed interest in investing in the growing digital creative industry in Indonesia.

Bill on creative economy

Currently, a bill on the creative economy is in the Indonesian parliament. Lawmakers should make it a priority to pass the bill into law.

To provide guidelines for the government, businesses and intellectuals to develop creative industries, Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade had published policy blueprints “Creative Economy Development Plan 2009-2015” and “Creative Industry Development Towards a Creative Economy 2025”. President Joko Widodo has also set up a Creative Economy Agency (BAKREF). The agency is tasked with policy making, program planning, coordination and synchronisation with other government agencies, guidance and supervision.

But this is not enough. Without legally binding regulation of the creative economy, industries are being subjected to rigid sector-based regulations. This is creating problems for IT-based referral businesses such as Uber and Gojek, which have been facing legal hurdles as the Transport Ministry deems them illegal.

A law on the creative economy would support business players who are looking to create innovative ways to provide goods and services. It would provide incentives for businesses, such as tax holidays, access to financing sources and intellectual property rights (IPR) facilities.

The legislation will also create rules and obligations for business players. These incentives can be taken away from them if violations occur.

Legislating for the creative economy will bring certainty for businesses and legally bind the government to support the sector. In the end, it could create wider employment opportunities in Indonesia.

Muhammad Faiz Aziz is a Researcher at the Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies (PSHK). This article was first published by theconversation.com