In Indonesia, it appears that not only a given religion’s deity keeps track of people’s actions and judges them, but now a state-backed app can also be used to report religious “heresy”.
The app is called “Smart Pakem,” and it is a free download from the Google Play Store. It gives the user the ability to report groups practicing religions not officially recognized by the state, as well as unorthodox interpretations of Indonesia’s six official religions, which include Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
The app will also list religious edicts and blacklisted organizations and will allow users to file complaints instantaneously, instead of going through a tiresome bureaucratic process of submitting a written accusation to a government office.
“The objective…is to provide easier access to information about the spread of beliefs in Indonesia, to educate the public and to prevent them from following doctrines from an individual or a group that are not in line with the regulations,” Nirwan Nawawi, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, told AFP in a statement.
Human rights groups expressed concern that powerful hardline Islamic groups may misuse the app and further widen divisions in the country, in which harassment of religious and other minorities is a common occurrence.
“This is going from bad to worse — another dangerous step to discriminate religious minorities in Indonesia,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono.
Heresy in Indonesia is no small crime, it can send an individual to prison or even receive a more serious verdict. As RT reported “a wide-ranging blasphemy law saw one Chinese Buddhist jailed this summer for requesting the mosque in her neighborhood lower the volume of its daily prayer call.”
Hundreds of thousands of people in the close to 270 million population country adhere to non-recognized animist and mystical faiths have long been discriminated and had their access to public services limited.
According to the AP, in 2018, “an angry mob rampaged through a small community of the Ahmadiyya Islamic minority on the island of Lombok, destroying homes and forcing dozens of members to flee.” The religious sect has been declared heretical by the Indonesian Ulema Counci(MUI).
One of the purposes of the app is to track and detect movements of the ISIS branch in Indonesia, since ISIS members also practice a “non-traditional” interpretation of Islam. However, even members of Indonesia’s Muslim majority have expressed concerns about the possible results of such reporting power in the hands of normal citizens.
Amiruddin Al-Rahab of the National Commission on Human Rights expressed concern that the app could “have a dangerous consequence by causing social disintegration. When neighbors are reporting each other, that would be problematic.”
However, on the other hand this is a great idea for other governments too – if you can’t afford sophisticated and widely-diffused supervision equipment such as CCTV cameras among other means, it may be a good idea to create a simple app that allows for people to monitor and report each other. This would save plenty of effort and resources for government’s who are set on constant and tight supervision.