Tuesday, June 30, 2009

For Muslims Only

Editorial: For Muslims only (as appeared in The Jakarta Post)
Sat, 06/27/2009 11:03 AM Opinion

Many of us Jakartans probably don't realize the danger of the tendency toward segregation in Greater Jakarta, where people choose to live in exclusive areas for those of the same religion. It is very likely that in other cities, it is becoming easier to find residential areas that are provided exclusively for certain groups.

All stakeholders in this city need to wake up to this unhealthy trend before it's too late, when people will want to live, work and socialize only with people come from same religion, ethnicity or social and economic backgrounds.

This newspaper in its City page (page 21) ran a report about the growing preference of Muslims in Depok to live in exclusive Islamic residences. Such residential areas include Permata Darrusalam, Pesona Madani and Mawar Residence. Such residential areas can also be found elsewhere in Greater Jakarta, like in Tangerang, as well as in neighboring Banten, which boasts the Islamic Village and Villa Ilhami. The residents argue they like to live in such "enclaves" because they want to live in an Islamic atmosphere. It means they want to make sure their children grow up, socialize and are educated in purely Islamic ways.

Property developers see this trend as a lucrative business opportunity. But it is hard to understand why the government does not take strong action to discourage this trend. The city administration has the obligation to make sure people are restricted to living in an area just because they are different from their neighbors. It is disappointing that the government allows this negative trend.

It is not impossible that Nahdlatul Ulama or Muhammadiyah members only want to live among fellow members. It can also happen with people from other religions. Do we want to see exclusive residential areas for Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists or Hindus, or exclusive housing complexes for Javanese, Bataks, Sundanese or Chinese? In the past, there are many complaints that our Chinese compatriots preferred to form enclaves for themselves, like the housing compounds in West Jakarta and North Jakarta -Kelapa Gading, Pluit and Pantai Indah Kapuk.
It is really a setback because it occurs despite our efforts to create a modern and pluralistic society, which was introduced by our founding fathers and had become their commitment long before they declared the establishment of this country.

Therefore, all parties who believe that unity in diversity is a really fitting slogan for our country should do something to prevent such a trend from growing.

And because Islam is the religion of the majority of this population, we wonder why there are Muslims who feel insecure living alongside people of other religions. The government and all stakeholders are responsible for making sure the state treats all Indonesians equally. But is the government aware of the threat of segregation?

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