With religious intolerance on the rise among Indonesian youth, an Islamic think tank is trying to get them back to basics with a competition based on the teachings of renowned Islamic reformer Ahmad Wahib.
“The majority perception of Indonesians, according to a number of surveys, is that they are intolerant,” Husni Mubarak, the competition organizer from the Paramadina Foundation, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.
“More specifically, intolerance is also prevalent among Indonesian youth.”
Surveys by the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, Lazuardi Birru, the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) and the Center for the Study of Islam and Society all indicate that religious intolerance is on the rise in the country.
“We find that intolerance is not just a matter of perception, but it also pushes youths into joining [in with] violent acts in the name of their religion,” Husni said.
He cited attacks in 2011 against communities of the minority Islamic sect Ahmadiyah in villages in Bogor and Banten. In both cases, there was evidence that children under the age of 17 took part in the mob attacks, ransacking people’s property.
At least two minors were convicted in the cases. One of them, 17-year-old Dani bin Misra, earned notoriety after being recorded on video smashing in the head of an Ahmadi man with a rock as he lay prostrate on the ground.
The victim died, but Dani got only three months in jail for assault, destruction of property and an attack leading to death.
Husni said the Ahmad Wahib Competition, organized by the Paramadina Foundation’s youth forum, was being held this year with those incidents in mind.
Wahib was born in 1942 in Sampang, East Java, and died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 30. His teachings on Islamic reform, derived from his diary entries, were published as a book, “Throes of Islamic Thought,” and made waves for their revolutionary take on religious identity and tolerance.
“He was a thinker who was always on a quest for the truth,” Husni said. “The theme for this year’s competition is tolerance, taking Ahmad Wahib as the inspiration.”
This is the fourth time the competition has been held since 2003. In addition to submitting essays on tolerance, contestants this year can also submit blog posts and videos. The competition is open to all Indonesians aged 16 to 27, with the deadline for submissions on July 13.