Indonesia's Secular Traditions Threatened

March 4, 2007


Source: Canoe News

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Women are jailed for being on the street alone after dark in parts of Indonesia, long held up as a beacon of moderate Islam. Gamblers are caned as punishment, Christian schoolchildren are forced to wear headscarves and a proposed law would sentence thieves to amputation of the hands.

Though most people in the world's most populous Muslim country practise a tolerant form of the faith, a small but determined group of conservatives are chipping away at the sprawling archipelago's secular traditions and trying to reshape it in the image of orthodox Middle Eastern countries.

And they are slowly gaining ground, in part, critics say, because President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, liberal Muslim leaders and society at large have avoided public debate on the issue.

Aiding the conservatives is the high level of autonomy given to local and regional legislatures since ex-dictator Suharto's 32-year leadership came to an end in 1998 amid massive, pro-democracy street protests.