Indonesia: Nixing Religious Bigotry

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Fearing rising religious bigotry, Jakarta, is now planning to tackle the scourge, by requiring Islamic education teachers to be vested with a bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies when administering lessons.

And all preachers will soon need to follow guidelines from mainstream clerics on what can be taught in Friday sermons said a Jakarta Post report, quoting the nation’s Religious Affairs Ministry on measures to combat rising bigotry in schools and mosques.

But the report did not say how it plans to ‘audit’ the problem, if they maybe periodic inspections of schools, if the medium of instruction should be in English, who the people tasked with the inspections would be or when it will be implemented.

Nonetheless, the ministry will notify regional administrations and schools, through circulars to only employ people with sufficient qualifications in Islamic studies to teach the religion, the ministry’s Islamic education director-general Komaruddin Amin told.

The move follows findings that many Islamic education teachers were themselves intolerant coupled with complaints from Muslims that Fridaysermons in several mosques had been inaccurate and inflammatory.

A 2016 study by the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) revealed that 78 percent of Islamic education teachers supported organizations that demanded the implementation of sharia in the country.

The study, which was conducted at schools in Banda Aceh, Central Java, West Java, West Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi, also found that 87 percent of Islamic education teachers opposed to the appointment of non-Muslims as school principals, and nearly 90 percent of them refused to vote for non-Muslims as mayors or regents.

There are currently 186,000 Islamic education teachers in the country while there are more than 230,000 schools in need of Islamic studies teachers.

The Indonesian Islamic Education Teachers Association (AGPAII) has acknowledged that several of its members did not have formal education in Islamic studies underscoring therefore, why they have failed to latch onto the need for tolerance.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation of close to 240million peoples. Its’ mainly Muslim population adhere to the Sufi branch of Islam distinct from the Wahabi brand of teachings found commonly in the Middle East.

Though the massive archipelago of 17,000 islands is far removed from the toxic politics of the Middle East, terrorism and terrorism related activities have gripped the nation like never before. The infamous Bali bombing of 2002 that killed closed to 100 Australians in the resort island of Bali has seared into the nation’s psyche. Since then terrorism has reverberated with a vengeance in Indonesia culminating in many acts and the loss of many lives.

Since then the nation has been at tenterhooks and according to well-placed sources close to the Indonesian School in Singapore “the Indonesian government is fully aware of who these people (meaning terrorists) are”, implying in his words to The Independent that the war on terror has to be fought with strategic calmness.