“Smart Pakem”: Indonesia Launches ‘Heresy App’ To Streamline Policing of Religious Minorities

Last month, the Jakarta State Prosecutor’s office (Kejati) launched a mobile application enabling members of the public to report on citizens engaging in “misguided” religious practices and beliefs. Known as ‘Smart Pakem’ (monitoring religious beliefs), the app has been condemned by human rights bodies, including Indonesia’s own National Commission on Human Rights, Komnas HAM.

One of the world’s most populous countries, and the most populous Muslim-majority country, Indonesia has seen increasing religious intolerance, with the country being widely criticized for its failure to protect religious minorities. As such, the release of Smart Pakem, which also includes features such as a list of forbidden beliefs and mass organizations and a directory of fatwas (rulings of Islamic law) from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) – has sparked fears that it will only further persecution of minority groups in Indonesia.

Choirul Anam, a commissioner at Komnas HAM, made clear to The Jakarta Post that the app could potentially lead to violations of religious freedom, and could “result in persecution, violence, and criminalization… It is contradictory to the government’s desire to create a culture of mutual respect and tolerance, which is why I have asked the government and the attorney general to take it down”. Amiruddin Al-Rahab, also a commissioner at Komnas HAM, added that such technology could have a “dangerous consequence by causing social disintegration”, and pointed out that it may also be violating the ruling of the Constitutional Court last year which increased the rights of religions not officially recognized (Reuters). Yendra Budiana, spokesperson for the Ahmadiyah Indonesia Congregation (JAI), expressed concern that any progress towards religious freedom the Constitutional Court’s ruling may have had will be hindered by such an app, saying that “the launch of the application will make the public more distrustful of one another, increase the potential for horizontal conflict and damage the dialogue about differing religious beliefs that has already started in the community”.

Despite these concerns, both the Kejati and the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) have maintained that the Smart Pakem app was intended to be – and will functions as – a benefit to Indonesian society, helping to educate and inform the public of heretical and banned religious groups. During a publicity event for the app’s launch, Yulianto, Kejati Jakarta assistant for intelligence, stated that “if there are reports from the public, we can immediately act on them. Before, people needed to write a letter, which was troublesome. Through this application, we will immediately know where the reports come from” (Kopmas.com). When questioned about potential dangers of the app, spokesperson Mukri of the AGO claimed that “it is meant to educate the public and it is within the AGO’s authority….we want to create an inventory to make it easier for the public to check whether a group is banned or not”.

A law from 2004 gives the AGO authority to “conduct oversight over religious beliefs that can endanger the community and the country”, with a further regulation in 2015 permitting the AGO to establish teams to analyze religious activity and judge the impact it would have on public order. Mukri maintains that the AGO’s role is – in part – to oversee religious beliefs, and as such the Kejati and the AGO are “only applying the authority that is given to us by the law”.

Despite protests of the Attorney General’s Office, the Smart Pakem app is to further legitimize the state-supported persecution of religious minorities in Indonesia. Majoritarianism – allowing the many to dictate what is right – is often used to excuse violations of human rights and can lead to persecution, and a level of entitlement within the majority resulting in vitriolic behavior. Regardless of any authority given by law, the Attorney General’s Office has a duty to protect citizens of Indonesia, including minority groups. In the case of the Smart Pakem app, this means recognizing that the resulting product is dangerous – and, as recommended by Komnas HAM, should be recalled from distribution.

Fiona McLoughlin