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Indonesian app to report 'misguided' religion 'risks dividing neighbors'

Reuters - November 26, 2018

Jakarta Indonesia's national human rights agency said on Monday it was concerned about the launch of a mobile application by the Jakarta Prosecutor's Office, which allows members of the public to report religious beliefs they consider "misguided".

Indonesia has no state religion but has traditionally required citizens to register as Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist or Confucian, though last year the Constitutional Court affirmed the rights of faiths outside official religions after a challenge by some indigenous faiths.

Nonetheless, there remain concerns about rising intolerance in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country as well as the use of strict blasphemy laws against minorities and the targeting of Islamic sects such as the Ahmadiyyah.

The app, called "Smart Pakem", features a list of groups including Ahmadiyyah as well as Gafatar, which the country's highest Islamic council considers a deviant sect.

It was not clear what the list represented, but some of the groups such as Gafatar have been outlawed and the app has a link that allows members of the public to report organizations deemed harmful.

The app could have a "dangerous consequence by causing social disintegration", said Amiruddin Al-Rahab, a commissioner at the National Commission on Human Rights. "When neighbors are reporting each other, that would be problematic," Al-Rahab told Reuters.

Despite facing a backlash from human rights groups, the free app was available for download on Google Inc's Google Play store on Monday afternoon.

Al-Rahab said since the app's features were not running in full it was unclear whether the prosecutor's office would include detailed guidance on the kind of organization categorized as "harmful" or beliefs deemed as "misguided".

"Don't leave the people in confusion, if people are confused they will take matters into their own hands," he said, adding that the app could also contravene the Constitutional Court's ruling last year on the rights of devotees of faiths outside the state-recognized religions.

The Jakarta Prosecutor's Office could not immediately be reached for comment. Yulianto, an official at the Jakarta Prosecutor's Office, was quoted as saying by the news site Kompas.com that the app aimed to educate people and to increase the transparency of the reporting process.

Indonesia's attorney general's office has the authority under the law to monitor religions in case beliefs are deemed a threat to the community and can establish teams to examine such claims.

[Reporting by Tabita Diela and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Ed Davies and Robert Birsel.]

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-religion/indonesian-app-to-report-misguided-religion-risks-dividing-neighbors-idUSKCN1NV0YT.

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