Mathias Hariyadi, Jakarta – According to the latest Intolerant City Index (IKT) by the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, the city of Depok, home to 2.5 million people just 20 kilometres from Jakarta, is one of the 10 most intolerant cities in the country.
Policies towards non-Muslim residents and the problems of community life are among the key factors behind this result.
Based on data collected by the Indonesian Statistical Office (BPS), as well as reports from mainstream media and the National Commission for Women's Rights (Komnas Perempuan), the picture that emerges is one concern, in particular for Ismail Hasani, executive director of the Setara Institute.
Urban planning and discriminatory incidents have contributed to this situation in the city in West Java province. Depok has adopted a series of regulations that effectively prevent non-Muslims from living in the city, generating problems of intolerance.
"Frequently and without reason, some houses of prayer, including a mosque, have been closed," Hasani explained. "Increasingly the atmosphere in public areas, such as housing compounds, has become highly Islamic."
According to Hasani, this is the result of choices made by political authorities, a view shared by Harminto, a resident of the city since 1980 who talked to AsiaNews about the rise of Islamic extremism.
"Most government officials belong to the hardline Prosperous Justice and Party (PKS), an extremist political movement whose core mission is to turn Depok into an Islamic centre."
"Local Muslim leaders sought to develop the residents' 'good character' to improve their job and business opportunities," yet for most Indonesians, religion has nothing to do with the development of human skills.
Despite this, in Depok, some residents view the measures taken by the authorities as legitimate; but for Hasani, "only civil society groups can help Depok transform itself into a tolerant city."