Jakarta – The Civil Society Coalition is urging the national police criminal investigations directorate (Bareskrim) to halt the investigation into the head of the Al Zaytun Islamic boarding school (Ponpes), Panji Gumilang, for alleged blasphemy.
Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) Chairperson Muhammad Isnur admitted to being disappointed by the police's decision to follow up on a report of alleged blasphemy against Gumilang.
"The police must stop the criminalising Panji Gumilang. This is a human rights violation that is very serious, because it continues to repeatedly take away the rights and freedom of religion as guaranteed by the constitution", said Isnur in a written statement by the Coalition Against Religious Blasphemy Articles on Tuesday June 4.
He also believes that differences of opinion regarding religion and beliefs are normal and guaranteed by the constitution.
Isnur admitted that he was worried that law enforcement would not be able to act fairly because of mass pressure and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).
"The MUI is very aggressive and the masses have been given a place to intimidate and even threaten [the boarding school] with violence", he said.
In the same vein, Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy Executive Director Halili Hasan believes that the application of the criminal articles on religious desecration appear more as "trial" by mass pressure (trial by the mob).
He is also asking MUI not to issue a fatwa (edict) on the different interpretation of Islam as practiced by Gumilang.
"We demand that the police not succumb to mass pressure and certain religious groups, such as the MUI, which issue a single and final fatwa (opinion) on Panji Gumilang's religious understanding", said Hasan.
Solidarity with Victims of Violations of Religious Freedom and Belief (Sobat KBB) National Coordinator Angelique Maria Cuaca is also asking that all parties respect the different views of people with other beliefs.
"Stop criminalisation and violence in the name of religion. Respond maturely to differences with mutual respect to build togetherness and a life that is dignified, full of peace, in Indonesia", said Cuaca.
The Al Zaytun Islamic boarding school has been in the spotlight recently because it is suspected of teaching ideas that deviate from Islamic teachings.
This boarding school has continued to be a subject of discussion since the a video circulated on social media of mixed rows of men and women conducting prayers during the Idul Fitri mass prayers in April.
As a result, Gumilang was reported to the national police criminal investigations directorate by the chairperson of the Pancasila Defenders Advocacy Forum, Ihsan Tanjung, for alleged blasphemy.
Gumilang was summoned by the criminal investigations directorate for questioning as a witness in the case at Al Zaytun and after some 10 hours of questioning, police raised the case to the investigation stage.
As for the fate of Al Zaytun, it is still granted an operational permit because it is considered to fulfill Arkanul Ma'had or the requirements for an institution to qualify as a boarding school.
Ministry of Religion Director of Diniyah (Islamic elementary school) and Islamic Boarding School Education, Waryono Abdul Ghofur, has confirmed this saying that the ministry gave Al Zaytun an operational permit.
"Yes, because initially we gave them a permit, so yes it still meets the requirements, because there are five Arkanul Ma'had, there are caretakers, there must be a dormitory, there must be a place of worship, santri [religious pupils], smart studies and a curriculum, and there's is a kitab kuning [yellow book detailing Islamic law and regulations] or Dirasat Islamiyah", said Ghofur in the Menteng suburb of Central Jakarta on Tuesday. (pan/isn)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Koalisi Masyarakat Sipil Desak Polisi Setop Penyidikan Panji Gumilang".]