"Based on Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution, the government must protect and ensure freedom for the citizens to embrace and implement rites of their respective religions, including those who follow the Baha'i faith," Din Syamsuddin, the general chairman of Indonesia's second-largest Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah, noted here on Monday.
He stated that only some five or six religions have so far been socially recognized in the country with Islam being followed by majority of Indonesians.
"A religion may have a small number of followers, but if its existence is real in the community and it is indeed a religion then the state may not ban it," Syamsuddin emphasized.
However, if the teachings of the religion are not pious or merely being associated with the existing religion and deviate from it, then it cannot be declared as a religion, he stated, referring to Ahmadiyah.
"Ahmadiyah cannot be declared as a religion because it associates itself with Islam. However, its teachings are against the Islamic faith with its declaration of Mirza Gulam Ahmad as its new prophet. Meanwhile, Bahai and other small religions have existed in the world," Syamsuddin pointed out.
The president of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ARCP) and an eminent religious figure further added that the Baha'i faith is a religion although historically it originated from Islam.
"The founder of Baha'i faith is a Sufi, and the faith has crystalized into a religion of itself like other religions in Indonesia that have developed to become religions of their own," Syamsuddin pointed out.
Din Syamsuddin praised the religious affairs minister's decision to accept the Baha'i faith as it was in line with the constitution.
"To Islam and other religions, Baha'i faith is a religion in line with the constitution, and therefore, it must be protected," he remarked.