Seven percent of all men are gay. But most Indonesians don’t want a lesbian or homosexual as their neighbour. Fifteen percent of all inhabitants is not Sunni in Indonesia. Yet almost one in every two Indonesians doesn’t like to have someone who adheres to a different religion in their neighbourhood.
Deviancy usually is frowned upon. Many, if not most people tend to be ill at ease in the company of men and women who are, look , think, behave different from themselves. Hippies made common middle class persons feel uncomfortable. Disabled people often run into fellow human beings trying to avoid them. Conservatives prefer to befriend conservatives rather than liberals. And vice versa. Most inhabitants of Amsterdam probably wouldn’t like their neighbour wearing a Niqab and most inhabitants of Bandar Aceh in all likelihood wouldn’t want lo live next to an atheist. It’s not easy to be Black out of Africa, Asian in Russia or Caucasian in Zimbabwe. Or Chinese in Indonesia. Majorities generally are not fond of minorities. Discrimination is in our veins. Not just in South-East Asia, but everywhere.
However condemning discrimination and supporting tolerance is an act of civilization. It’s a product of increasing prosperity, education and a global orientation. At the start it is an elitist hobby. Fragile. Even in countries where any discrimination by ethnic, religious, gender and other criteria has been outlawed. Yet in my opinion anti discriminatory laws and systematically cultivating cultures of tolerance is a public obligation.
However the situation in Indonesia is worrying. There is no real progress. In stead conditions seem to be deteriorating.
According to the LSI researchers, intolerance is up under SBY’s watch. Today one in every three well educated Indonesians ( at University level) and even two out of every three Indonesians who have a poor or even high school education, reject Shiites, Ahmadis and most of all homosexuals. Some 30% of the population even agree with religious based violence towards them. So, a huge minority of the archipelago´s population backs beating minorities into conformity. Poverty, ignorance, an absent state and aggressive religion make a rich ground for homophobia and other discomforts - especially in rural and poor parts of the country. No diversity. No unity. Demand respect, don’t offer respect. Just bully the deviant bastards into compliance with opinions, attitudes, habits and codes of the majority religion.
Unfortunately deviant minorities can´t really rely on a state of law. Anti discrimination laws are not effective. Alleged causes are a weak state, indecisive leadership and poor law enforcement.
Neither can they hope for a systematically growing culture of tolerance. In reality it is like the ´Dancing procession of Echternach`; two steps forward and one step back. Or in this case : one step forward, two steps back. It’s no exception authorities get bribed to side with Sunni vigilantes who represent religious intolerance.
A dramatic U-turn is necessary. It’ obviously will be quite a challenge to the next government and to the informed, progressive part of society. Perhaps this JP editorial advice might be a bold and promising start: Gay Official? Why not?
* From The Muslim Times: Fostering Intolerance.