Menchik Publishes Op-Ed on Tolerance in Indonesia


Jeremy Menchik, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Fredrick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, published a recent Op-Ed on strengthening tolerance in Indonesia. 

The Op-Ed, “Strengthening Tolerance in Indonesia,” was published on December 5, 2016 by RSIS Commentary, a series published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies providing timely, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical issues and contemporary developments. 

From the text of the Op-Ed:

Since democratization began in 1998, Indonesia has been home to radical social movements like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). Indonesians have heard recurrent polemics against faith and other minorities from religious leaders and government officials. In a democratic society, intolerance is an unfortunate manifestation of political liberty.

The massive turnout for the 5 November 2016 anti-Ahok demonstration offered a vivid reminder that millions of Indonesians are sensitive to a non-Muslim becoming the political leader of a predominantly Muslim country. While these acts do not negate the success of democratisation, they are a reminder that tolerance must be carefully nurtured and intolerance managed by policymakers.

The State and the Place of Religion

As a result of incessant polemics, many Indonesians today feel unnecessarily threatened by faith minorities such as Christians, Shiites and Ahmadis. Every expression of intolerance should be met with an expression of tolerance. Individuals are less likely to believe polemics when they see that their neighbours, classmates and fellow citizens hold different religious views.

It is exposure to difference that explains why Muslim Indonesians from religiously diverse ethnic backgrounds—Torajan, Nias, Balinese—tend to be more tolerant of Christians than Muslims from religiously homogenous backgrounds like Sasak, Sumbawa, and Sundanese.

You can read the entire Op-Ed here.

Jeremy Menchik’s research interests include comparative politics, religion and politics, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. At Boston University he is a member of the graduate faculty of political science and coordinates the MA program in IR and Religion.