Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Empat Argumen Pembelaan Terhadap Kelompok Agama Minoritas*

Ahmad Najib Burhani

In defending the religious rights of minorities, the first question that needs to be dealt with is whether this kind position is justified academically. Objectivity is often seen as the main standard and criteria of scholarship. What we must defend as a scholar is the truth, regardless where it is. It could be in the side of majority or minority. But, in social sciences, truth is always contested. What a scholar can do is sometimes only opening perspectives or making awareness of many different kind of perspectives.

Moving directly to the arguments, the first reason of the involvement of scholar in defending religious minorities is the need to balance the argument in the mainstream-dominated discourse in society and to open the wider perspective about minority. Different from the majority who are mostly capable of defending themselves, the minority are unable or their voices are restricted to defend themselves. Of course this is not a general law, but it is a common phenomenon. People often expected the minority to be obedient, listening, not making any trouble, and not surpassing the majority in term economy, religious development, education, and so on.

It is something not unusual when a member minority group just breach a bit of that expectation, people would say "sudah kecil, kemlinthi" (small/ minority, but arrogant), "sudah kecil, tak tahu diri". When they demanded equality, they are considered of not knowing themselves or not being humble. In certain cases, when the minority is guilty of committing crime or accused of committing crime or just perceived of committing crime, they often received double punishments. There are a number of examples of these, but this article just wants to refer to three cases where member of minority groups were perceived of committing crime and received double punishments. They are the case of Tanjung Balai, Cikeusik, and Sampang. In these three cases, the victims receive more punishments than attackers. Meliana, Deden Sudjana, and Tajul Muluk must be imprisoned in order to appease the demand of the mob from majority group. In the case of Meliana, although not proven yet and the police stated that she did not violate anything or committed defamation of religion, but society have exaggerated her mistake. To forgive the alleged mistake, people have demanded her something beyond her capability or far above the alleged mistake: she is forbidden to return to her home, she has to move out from the village, she must ask forgiveness from the whole Indonesian people for her alleged mistake of "inciting" social chaos, two temples in the village must be closed, etc. Tajul Muluk must be imprisoned for years because of defamation of religion and Deden Sudjana had to stay in jail longer than the attackers.

The second argument is psychological argument. It is true that being minority does not automatically need to be defended. Apartheid party in South Africa and Sunni minority as represented in Bath party in Iraq can be seen as representing what is usually called as tyranny of minority. No need to defend them. However, there are a number of minority groups that are discriminated throughout their lives. Their lives are like homo sacer, in Agamben's term (1998). They have to adjust and try to please the surrounding community. They suffered for a long time, but never ever have any courage to express them. I have not had a chance to meet Meliana, but if she lived in front of a mosque for eight years with that kind of noise five times a day, I think she must be a very tolerant person, either she does not have any option to move from that house or she is sincerely a tolerant person. And that day was just her unlucky day because she expressed her feeling to other people. People who do not like the noise of mosque usually just stayed away or move out from that place. Perhaps someone from minority groups committed a mistake, but what is also needed to be understood is their psychological condition of living under certain expectation of behavior and attitude for a long time. This understanding does not necessarily bringing us to the conclusion of overlooking the mistake from religious minority, but it will give us to a different kind of perspective when we see a mistake done by a minority group. This kind of perspective is similar to the way we see the self-immolation of Bouazizi in Tunisia or a suicide bomber in Palestine (Asad 2007).

The third reason is theological argument, namely: defending minority is a religious imperative. What I call theological imperative does not always refer to something that religious people must accept and obey without question. This theological imperative is close to moral imperative, that is understood as a universal virtue. It does not need or ask someone to be religious or become believer to accept this moral virtue. The theological or moral teaching on the relationship between majority and minority, senior and junior, strong and weak is "respecting majority/strong/senior and loving minority/junior/weak". In the statement of Prophet Muhammad, "Laisa minna man lam yarham saghirana wa lam yuwaqqir kabirana" (it is not part of my umma/ community those who do not have respect to those above him and who do not love those below him). This theological maxim is similar to the maxim in the liberation theology "Whatever is done to and for 'the least' is done to and for God himself".

The fourth is political argument, that one of the criteria of democracy is whether the minority feel at home and save in that country. This is related to equality before the law. As underlined by a number of scholars, democracy was created or implemented in order to prevent majority to become tyrant or to avoid what is called tyranny of majority (Donovan and BowlerSource 1998; McGann 2004; Haider-Markel, Querze, and Lindaman, 2007). The essence of democracy is located in the way the government treat and protect minority groups.

*Bagian dari makalah yang berjudul "The Impact of Globalization on the Plight of Religious Minorities in Contemporary Indonesia". Disampaikan sebagai keynote speech pada Indonesia Programme Workshop on "The Rise of Religious Intolerance in Contemporary Indonesia", organised by S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, di Shangri-La Hotel Jakarta, 25 Agustus 2016.