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Cablegate: Indonesian Baha'i Face Difficulties

VZCZCXRO7574
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0120 3501057
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161057Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0506
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0496
INFO RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0519
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0194
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0226
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SURABAYA 000120

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI ID
SUBJECT: INDONESIAN BAHA'I FACE DIFFICULTIES

This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary. Recent proselytizing activities have created
difficulties for a small Baha'i community in East Java. The
local Council of Muslim Clerics decided not to ban the Baha'i
because they are a distinct religion. While Baha'i regularly
encounter administrative difficulties due to their religion,
there have been no reported incidents of violence. End summary.

2. (SBU) Recently, in a small village of 2,650 families in the
Tulungagung Regency of East Java, the local Baha'i community
drew the attention of the majority Muslim population through
their door-to-door proselytizing activities. This small
community of nine families are all converts from Islam. The
rest of the community, who are all Muslim, mistakenly viewed the
Baha'i religion as a deviant sect of Islam and requested the
local Council of Muslim Clerics (MUI) to ban Baha'i activities.
The local police asked the MUI to temporarily ban all Baha'i
activities for fear that they would cause social disorder.

3. (SBU) Abu Sofyan Firajudin, a secretary of the MUI in
Tulungagung, said that the MUI decided not to ban the Baha'i
religion since it is a distinct religion and not a heresy of
Islam. However, this view is not shared by all local MUI
throughout the country. Soesiana T. Ekawati, a coordinator of
the Baha'i community in Indonesia, said that in June 2009 the
MUI in Palopo of South Sulawesi issued a religious ruling
declaring the Baha'i religion a heretical religion. She said
that this illustrates widespread confusion throughout Indonesia
about the nature of the Baha'i religion.

4. (SBU) Soesiana also said that, in general, Baha'i in
Indonesia encounter administrative obstacles when they deal with
the government. For example, it is often difficult to obtain ID
cards or marriage certificates from the local village office or
to complete school entrance forms because of the "religious
identification" question. A Surabaya based newspaper Surya
reported that the secretary of Ringinpitu village rejected
Baha'i followers' request to mention "Baha'i" in religion column
of ID cards. Soesi stated that she kept the "religion" column
blank when she applied for an ID card, and considered it a
victory that she didn't have to claim another religion just to
complete the bureaucratic process.

5. (SBU) Fortunately, there have been no reported instances of
physical violence against Baha'i in Indonesia. Soesiana said
that so far there has also not been any physical intimidation
from Muslim hardliner groups like the Islam Defender Front
(FPI). Abu Sofyan said that although people were not happy with
the presence of Baha'i in their community, they did not express
their disappointment through violence. Instead they expressed
their concerns through the proper channel - MUI.

MOBLEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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