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Unformatted text preview: litary affairs in South Sulawesi, at Karebosi Square in Makassar in October 2008. Not long ago it would have been unimaginable that the military would incorporate a Chinese cultural display into its sacred nationalist rituals. ismail08.jpg *Chinese Indonesians celebrate Chinese New Year* /Henri Ismail/ Successive governments have also dismantled other legal restraints, including laws preventing non-?indigenous? Indonesians from becoming president. Former President Abdurrahman Wahid also acknowledged Confucianism as a religion. More recently the parliament passed a law which decrees that ethnic and racial discrimination is now punishable with a jail term. All these changes have had a great psychological impact on ethnic Chinese, particularly for the younger generation for whom this was previously an unexplored aspect of their identities. There has been a revival of Chinese (Mandarin) language study especially among young Chinese Indonesians and explorations of this identity in the arts and in popular culture. Plurality threatened With the exception of localised incidents during the period before Abdurrahman Wahid?s election as president in October 1999, there has been no significant anti-Chinese violence since May 1998. As many commentators have remarked, this is perhaps surprising given that in this time Indonesia has experienced some of the worst communal and radical Islamist violence in its modern history. The absence of extreme anti-Chinese violence like that seen in the late 1990s is indeed related to the great shift since then in state-led attitudes towards this minority and also the wide support for pluralism and multiculturalism in general. Ethnic Chinese make up less than two percent of Indonesia?s total population, scattered across the archipelago. Almost half live in Java, with significant singular concentrations in urban Jakarta and Medan. Most Chinese Indonesians have double minority status, being also non-Muslim. Recent analysis of raw data collected in the 2000 census carried out by Aris Ananta and his team from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore found that 54 per cent of ethnic Chinese, Arabs and Indians declare themselves to be Buddhist, 35 percent Christian, 5 per cent Muslim and the rest Hindu and ?other?. Most Chinese thus have a direct interest in the preservation and protection of religious pluralism, along with other members Indonesia?s Christian community (which in total makes up approximately 10 per cent of the population) and members of other smaller religious minorities. Members of minority communities are worried about the government?s acquiescence to pressure from religious hard-liners, and the increasing popularity of conservative and intolerant views in the wider Muslim public. One of the best known challenges to religious pluralism in recent years concerned the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect. In June 2008, Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni, Home Minister Mardiyanto, and Attorney General Hendarman Supanji signed a joint ministerial decree, calling on members of Ahmadiyah to...
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