Who wouldn’t want to agree with president Susilo Bambang Yushoyono when he said the Prophet demanded a practice of harmony and tolerance in a diverse society.
Unfortunately there often is a gap between idealistic theory and muddy reality.
In a secular state one would expect it to be absolutely neutral in religious matters. Which amongst other issues means public schools either abstain from lessons on religion or observe a curriculum dedicating the same number of lessons on all religions c.a. Schools exclusively founded and exclusively funded by specific religious communities should be entitled to add teachings of their own religion to the official curriculum though. Unless they choose themselves to provide extra-curriculum lessons on other religions to serve pupils or students from other religious communities attending their school (s) as well.
Reality in RI is slightly different indeed.
In Blitar a local decree demands Muslims students to be able to read and write Koranic verses. Taking into account it’s officially a secular office, that is a remarkable rule.
Anyhow, two Roman Catholic Foundations governing six schools, in spite of their considerable number of Muslim students, refused to provide Islamic teachings in their classes and on their premises. They refered to the Education Law claiming it guarantees their authority to implement a curriculum following their own religious, social and cultural norms. On the other hand the local officials also refered to the Law on the National Education System. They said religiously based schools should provide lessons in the religion of other denominations if the number of pupils or students who practice that religion exceeds 15%.
This rule looks much more even handed at first glance than it actually is. In a country where 90% – at least formally – is Muslim, it’s clear it specifically targets Christian schools. Firstly because Islamic schools are ( much) less likely to admit non-Muslim students. Moreover Christian schools accidentally often also happen to provide better formal education on average and therefore are attractive to non-Christians also.
So a conflict was born. The foundations didn’t want to comply and Religious Affairs Ministry’s office in Blitar, which clearly is partisan, recommended closure of the six schools.
Actually the Foundations gave in ultimately; Muslim students will be provided with Islamic lessons, be it outside the school.
Yet it’s not a nice example of the practice of harmony and tolerance in a diverse society. It rather is an example of competition between two actively proselyting religions. Better leave that to the competitors in my opinion. It’s not state business. Yet, a curriculum revision does exactly the opposite by reducing science and expending religion at schools.
It would be so much to the benefit of formal education if religion would be left at the doorsteps of the schools.
* Picture from here.