Wed, Nov 28, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Indonesia’s new religious heresy app draws fire

AFP, JAKARTA

A new Indonesian government app that lets the public report suspected cases of religious heresy is drawing fire as rights groups warn it could aggravate persecution of minorities in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.

Users of the app can report groups practicing unrecognized faiths or unorthodox interpretations of Indonesia’s six officially recognized religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism.

MODERNIZATION

Smart Pakem, which was launched on Sunday and is available for free in the Google Play store, was created by the Jakarta Prosecutor’s Office, which said it would help educate the public and modernize the reporting process.

The app also lists religious edicts and blacklisted organizations and allows users to file complaints instantaneously, instead of going through the often cumbersome process of submitting a written accusation to a government office.

“The objective ... is to provide easier access to information about the spread of beliefs in Indonesia, to educate the public and to prevent them from following doctrines from an individual or a group that are not in line with the regulations,” Nirwan Nawawi, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said in a statement.

However, rights groups fear the app could be misused by powerful hardline Islamic groups and widen divisions in a nation where harassment of religious and other minorities is not uncommon.

DISCRIMINATION

“This is going from bad to worse — another dangerous step to discriminate religious minorities in Indonesia,” Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono said.

“This is dangerous because if mainstream society doesn’t like [a group] they’ll report them through the application — this will create problems,” said Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice chairman of rights group Setara Institute.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago who adhere to non-recognized animist and mystical faiths have long suffered discrimination and limited access to public services.

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