Indonesians celebrate their non-Islamic heritage: ex-envoy Biren Nanda

Story by  Aasha Khosa | Posted by  Aasha Khosa • 2 Months ago
Indian and Indonesian Ulema at the Delhi interfaith conference

Aasha Khosa/New delhi

Indonesia is among a few Muslim-majority countries with a secular constitution and where Buddhist and Hindu cultural heritage is celebrated making the archipelago nation a case study for coexistence in a multifaith country.

According to Biren Nanda, former Indian ambassador in Jakarta, Indonesians “take pride in their ancestors being Hindus and in themselves as the followers of Islam.”

Diversity and mutual tolerance are enshrined in the national motto “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ meaning “unity in diversity” and it’s inscribed on a scroll gripped by Garuda in its claws on the national flag.

Nanda, who is a fellow of the think tank Delhi Policy Group says, Muslims of Indonesia are devout and follow the fundamentals of their religion strictly but at the same time, they happily live with others – Christians, Hindus Buddhists, and followers of Confucianism.

Nanda told Awaz-the voice on the sidelines of the day-long conference of the Islamic scholars of India and Indonesia in Delhi that people often have a component of their name as Hindu sounding and it is very normal.

He said it’s rarely one would find people raising their voice on others or showing off their anger at other religious beliefs. “It’s ingrained in them that people of all religions have to co-exist,” he said.

Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain, who is a member of the India-Indonesia Friendship society said that during his three visits to the country he was surprised to see the cultural icons displayed in public places that were of Hindu origins and people proudly flaunting the same to visitors and tourists.

He also noticed that Ramayana and Mahabharata are staged every day in one particular Indonesian city and the shows are always houseful.

Besides the majority of Islam, the Indonesian State recognizes five religions – – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism.

The blasphemy law applies to all six religions. It means that fanning hate or delivering a hate speech against any of the recognized religions is punishable by law. The punishment in such cases is up to five years in jail.

Interestingly, despite Indonesia being the largest Muslim country in the world followed by India and Pakistan, there have been only eight registered cases under the blasphemy law in the country.

Nanda said as the Indonesians lived on islands, they needed to hold on to each other for survival and self-sufficiency, and hence the unity of faiths is part of the lives of the people.

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However, due to the internet and social media, the youth of Indonesia were also getting into the trap of elements trying to radicalize them. However, the Ulema, use computers and social media and worked to counter it and minimised the threat of terrorism or social hate campaigns.