FU Theater, UIN NEWS Online – The regulation of Indonesian religious life is considered not enough to accommodate the rights of minority religious groups, especially for local religions categories. The narrow definition of ‘religion’ was suspected to be the cause of minoritization of small and local religious groups.

Thus was the context of National Seminar ‘The Existence of Religious Minority in Indonesia’ in the Theater Room of Ushuluddin Faculty on Wednesday (27/09/2017). The seminar held by the Department of Religion Studies which presented numbers of speaker, they were UGM Lecturer of Religious Studies and Cross-Cultural Studies Samsul Mu’arif Ph.D, UIN Jakarta Lecturer of Religion Studies Ismatu Ropi Ph.D, and Bhikkhu Dhammasubho Maha Thera, and Researcher of Institute of Religious Studies and Philosophy Iqbal Hasanuddin, MA.

Ismatu Ropi explained that religious regulation policies in Indonesia tend to protect more majority interest than minority. The arrangement of religious pilgrimage activities to the holy land and administration of certain religious education in formal educational institutions, while at the same time the regulation do not providing the same religious education and services to other smaller and local religious believers.

“This is an anomaly where the state tends to protect the interests of one religious majority group. At the same time, regulatory and other management programs creates shackles for minorities, “he said.

The situations, he explained, encourage the neglect of the rights of minority groups in a democratic country. While for minority groups, such conditions lead to a loss of willingness to participate in public domain, feel threatened, and a growing sense of distrust toward outsiders.

On the other hand, he added, such conditions cause the index of religious freedom in Indonesia was not preferential though nor poor. “In Religions Index of the World for the last two years, for example, Indonesia is ranked 5-6,” he said.

Such conditions, he explained, were inseparable from the country’s favorites to the majority of particular religious groups, minimum regulation and protection of minority religious life, including the pressure received by these minority religious groups. “In Indonesia, there are many minority religious groups, both from world religions which are minor in quantity or because their positions categorized as a beliefer group,” he said.

Deconstruction of ‘Religion’ Meaning

In response to these conditions, Samsul offered the approach for the academics of religious studies in the country to deconstruct the meaning of ‘religion’ which is developing. This was necessary so the term accordingly accommodates local belief and religious beliefs system which considered was not part of the religion. All this time, the meaning of religion only accommodate certain religions and marginalize other religious belief system.

In his presentation, Samsul said, the term ‘religion’ in the study areas tend to be oriented to major religions such as Christianity and Islam. With such definition, for example, a new religious belief can be considered as religion if it has divinity concept, eschatological, Scripture, great day of diversity like Islam and Christianity.

“Christianity, and then Islam, became the prototype of the religion term. The religion of ancestors or local religions is considered primitive through the term animism, dynamism, while a well established beliefs considered as world religions, “he explained.

With such a definition, Samsul said, encourage the happening of minoritization of religious belief systems which are considered has not met the criteria of religion. Minorization was seen through the categorization of religious beliefs of society into animism, dynamism, and believer groups.

Such trends, he added, arose at the time where religious and cultural studies at various European universities define religion by referring to Christian belief and religious systems. But this definition was adopted by scientists of religions studies while they were studying the religion. “This is challenging us. We need to reconstruct and deconstruct the meaning of ‘religion’ so it will free us from the misguided of term, “he added. (usa-im)

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