Fri, 15 Sep 2000

PITI urges an end to societal segregation

YOGYAKARTA (JP): Indonesians must overcome the imposed colonial legacy of social divisions if the relationship between ethnic Chinese and non-Chinese is to prosper, the caretaker chairman of the Association of Indonesian Chinese Muslims (PITI) Usman Effendy said.

Speaking at a seminar organized by the state-run Institute of Islamic Religion (IAIN) Sunan Kalijaga, Usman pointed out that the embedded societal segregation of the ethnic Chinese is a vestige of Dutch colonial times which has survived in the modern psyche.

He pointed out that during Dutch times those of Chinese descent were often given special tasks including collecting taxes and fees.

Dutch colonialists also classified them as second-class citizens while non-Chinese locals were considered third class, he said.

"The seeds of hostility have been planted and rooted so deep that we have been psychologically construed to always worry and be suspicious of each other," Usman said,

"It's now our task as Indonesian Chinese Muslims to act as mediators to mend the relationship as well as eliminate suspicion among people," he said.

He said if Indonesians can overcome this psychological obstacle, it may also provide a new impetus to create harmony among religious groups.

Usman claimed that there are presently some half a million ethnic Chinese Muslims in the country, or about 5 percent of the total population of Chinese Indonesians here.

PITI was set up in Jakarta in 1963 and was a fusion of the Association of Chinese Muslims (PMT) and the Association of Chinese Islam (PIT).(swa)