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Thousands of Indonesians rally against sect
JAKARTA (AFP) — Thousands of Indonesians wearing white to show their religious piety rallied at the presidential palace here Wednesday to demand the banning of a minority Islamic sect deemed “deviant” by top clerics.
More than 4,000 people from an array of mainstream Muslim political parties and fringe Islamist groups chanted slogans, shouted Allahu akbar (God is great) and waved banners condemning the Ahmadiyah sect.
A speaker accused the sect of “staining Islam” and demanded President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issue a decree to make it an outlawed organisation.
“We ask first that Ahmadiyah repent, return to Islam or make a new religion. If they don’t want to do that then they must be broken up,” said Mohammed Alwi, a student from an Islamic boarding school outside Jakarta.
“Ahmadiyah is a criminal organisation,” said another protester.
A small cordon of unarmed police was on hand to protect the palace but there was no sign of violence.
The protest comes after the government earlier this month ordered the sect, which has peacefully practised its faith in Indonesia since the 1920s, to stop spreading its belief that Mohammed was not the last prophet.
The ministerial decree stopped short of the ban demanded by Muslim leaders after the country’s top Islamic body issued a fatwa describing the sect as “deviant.”
The case has raised questions over Indonesia’s image as a tolerant, secular democracy and sparked violent tensions between moderates and radical hardliners.