Is Indonesia Really The World’s Most Tolerant Muslim Country?

The country’s vice president claims it is. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Indonesia is the most tolerant Muslim-majority in the world, the country’s vice-president Jusuf Kalla recently claimed in a Christmas Day speech in Aceh.

“In the Muslim-majority world, Indonesia is the most harmonious,” Republika Online reported Kalla as saying in his remarks ahead of commemorations for the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated the country.

“There’s no [conflict] here that compares with anything in any other country. We live together the most harmoniously,” Kalla said.

While Indonesia has long been recognized as a relatively moderate Muslim country, available data point to a far darker picture of religious tolerance than the sunny one Kalla suggests. To take just one example, according to a cross-national study on religious restrictions published by Pew in September 2012, Indonesia was actually one of the world’s most religiously restrictive states. Specifically, Indonesia was one of only five out of the 49 Muslim-majority countries in the world to register “very high” ratings in both metrics used in the study – government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion. The other four countries were Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – hardly good company in this respect.