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Scholars urge MUI to lift Ahmadiyah ban
Theresia Sufa and Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Bogor/Denpasar
Noted Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra led the calls on Thursday for the powerful Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to lift an edict that declares the teachings of Ahmadiyah heresy, saying the edict was counterproductive.
Azyumardi, the rector of Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University (UIN) in Jakarta, suggested the MUI invite Ahmadiyah followers to a dialog to listen to their views.
He also urged the government to follow the Constitution, which requires it to protect citizens regardless of their faith, and to take action against people who take the law into their own hands.
“I think the edict needs to be reviewed. There have been a lot of changes since the edict was issued in the 1980s. Why doesn’t the MUI listen to what exactly Ahmadiyah followers are saying? Perhaps there are some differences in what they believe now from in the past,” Azyumardi said on the sidelines of the Interfaith Dialog in Bali.
His call came after the Bogor regency administration ordered the Ahmadiyah congregation on Wednesday to halt all activities for fear of public disorder. The administration also said the group’s teachings ran counter to Islam.
Bogor regency spokesman Sjahuri said the order was endorsed by the local legislature, ulema council, religious affairs office, police, prosecutor’s office and district court.
“We also agreed to close down Ahmadiyah’s Mubarak campus in Pondok Udik village and assign a team to monitor the situation in the field and ensure that the ban works,” Sjahuri said.
Thousands of people attacked the JAI campus in Bogor last week for what they said was the congregation’s attempts to spread their teachings.
Nobody has been arrested over the violence. The Attorney General’s Office is seeking to ban Ahmadiyah as an organization for violating its founding permit.
Ahmadiyah has existed as an organization since 1953 and today it has about 200,000 members.
MUI declared Ahmadiyah’s teachings heretical in the 1980s because the group recognized its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet.
Sjuhari said the decision to freeze JAI’s activities followed the latest MUI edict, which reconfirmed its ban on Ahmadiyah’s teachings.
“We do not think we have been negligent regarding their activities. We have monitored their existence for a long time and we even warned them, but they never responded,” said Sjahuri.
He added the regency religious affairs office and the ulema council were providing religious guidance for Ahmadiyah followers.
Azyumardi regretted the government’s failure to take action against those responsible for the violence against Ahmadiyah followers.
“The state, represented by the government, must not tolerate people who take the law into their own hands and force their will on others in the name of religion.
“Lawlessness will prevail if the state cannot protect its citizens,” he said.
He suggested that the government offer to mediate in the dispute.
“The government cannot side with one group as everybody is equal before the law. The government must not discriminate against citizens for any reason,” he said.
The government’s failure to provide equal treatment has on many occasions sparked communal conflict, he added.
Sharing Azyumardi’s view was the Civil Society Alliance for Freedom of Religion and Faith, whose representatives met with Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh on Thursday to call on the government to ensure the people’s right to practice their faith.
“We demanded the government ensure that everybody is free to practice their faith and beliefs as stipulated in the Constitution,” alliance member Dawam Rahardjo said.