Indonesian president calls on country to unite against extremism

Indonesian president calls on country to unite against extremism


Indonesia’s president said in August 2017 that the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country needs to pull together to meet the threat of extremism and safeguard a constitution that enshrines religious freedom and diversity.

In an address to parliament, President Joko Widodo, pictured at center delivering his remarks, peppered his speech with references to addressing inequality in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and tackling the threat of radicalism.

Indonesian police recently arrested five suspected Islamist militants and seized chemicals near the capital, Jakarta, that police said were being used to make bombs for attacks on the presidential palace at the end of August.

Religious tension in Indonesia has soared since late 2016 after Islamist-led rallies saw Jakarta’s then governor, a member of a so-called double minority who is ethnic Chinese and Christian, put on trial during city elections over claims he insulted the Quran.

“We want to work together not only in creating an equitable economy, but also in ideological, political, social and cultural development,” Widodo said. “In the field of ideology, we have to strengthen our national consensus in safeguarding Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, the unity of the Republic of Indonesia and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika [unity in diversity],” he said.

Pancasila is Indonesia’s state ideology, which includes belief in God, the unity of the country, social justice and democracy and which enshrines religious diversity in an officially secular system.

Worries, however, remain about growing intolerance undermining a tradition of moderate Islam in a country where Muslims form about 85 percent of the population, alongside substantial Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and other minorities.

In April 2017, then-Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ally of Widodo, lost the bitterly fought city election to a Muslim rival and was later jailed for blasphemy, a sentence that rights groups and international bodies condemned as unfair and politicized.

“The challenges we face now and will face in the future are not easy,” Widodo said. “We are still confronted with poverty and injustice; we are still facing global economic uncertainty, and we are also facing movements of extremism, radicalism and terrorism.”

The president said the government needed to ensure that all state agencies “gain the highest trust of the people” and noted he had set up a presidential task force to oversee the teaching of Pancasila, particularly to the young.