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Govt, conservatives to blame for much ado about Ahmadiyah
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The Al Mahmudah mosque is like any of the other myriad mosques scattered throughout Indonesia, where a cool breeze blows in from outside, creating a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere.
And there is nothing unusual about the outfits or behavior of the Muslims who pray there.
Indeed, there is nothing about it at all to indicate whether this is a mosque like any other, or one of the biggest mosques belonging to the Jamaah Ahmadiyah Islamic sect.
More than 100 Ahmadiyah members (Ahmadis) attended Friday prayers at the Al Mahmudah mosque in Gondrong, Tangerang, Banten province, last week, giving no hint of any fear of an attack by a radical Muslim group following the government decree in June restricting their activities.
“We should work hard and be good to other people on earth to be able to get to heaven,” an Ahmadi preacher said.
Ahmadiyah’s religious activities have not been disrupted despite the government’s ban on the sect from spreading its teachings.
“We don’t see anything wrong with Ahmadiyah members. They are just like us, and there is no reason to make them our enemies or attack them,” said Yunus, 50, who lives near the mosque.
He said Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis had lived peacefully side by side in Gondrong for many years.
Just like any other Friday, other Muslims in the neighborhood also went to one of several mosques linked to Nahdlatul Ulama or Muhammadiyah according to their respective Mazhab (schools of thought).
Some non-Ahmadis living in the neighborhood, afraid of being late for the Friday prayers, even went to Al Mahmudah to pray.
Ahmadiyah was founded in Pakistan in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed to be another prophet in Islam after Muhammad. The sect is banned in Pakistan, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia and has come under attack in Bangladesh.
There are approximately 200,000 Ahmadis in Indonesia.
Ika, a 25-year-old from an Ahmadiyah family in Gondrong, said she was born in the area and could remember no attack or any other violence against her family or other Ahmadis living there.
“According to Ahmadiyah leaders, this is the most tolerant area in Indonesia,” she said.
Indeed, Gondrong is probably the only safe place for Ahmadis right now, with other members of the minority Islamic group across the country coming under attack since the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) issued an edict in July 2005, declaring Ahmadiyah heretical.
Islamist groups subsequently attacked the Ahmadiyah headquarters near Bogor, West Java. Assaults on Ahmadiyah members were also reported in East Lombok and Manis Lor in West Nusa Tenggara, and in Tasikmalaya, Parung, Garut, Ciaruteun and Sadasari in West Java.
Attacks on the Ahmadiyah community continued in 2006, forcing hundreds of Ahmadis to flee to a refugee camp in Lombok after local mobs destroyed their homes and mosques. Some Ahmadis sought political asylum at the Australian and German consulates in Bali.
In December 2007, mobs attacked Ahmadis, their mosques and their homes in Kuningan, West Java.
On April 16, 2008, Indonesia’s Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society (Bakor Pakem) recommended banning the Ahmadiyah faith, triggering a fresh round of attacks on Ahmadiyah.
On June 1, Indonesia’s image reached a new low after members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), armed with bamboo sticks, assaulted activists from the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion during a rally at the National Monument park, leaving about 70 people injured.
The peaceful rally was to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of Pancasila state ideology and to show support for Ahmadiyah.
Following the attack, the government gave in to pressure by radical groups, issuing a joint ministerial decree in July to ban Ahmadiyah from spreading its religious beliefs.
The U.S.-based International Crisis Group labeled the decree a setback for Indonesia’s image as a country that can stand up to Islamic radicalism and President Yudhoyono’s image as a strong leader.
“The outcome suggests the government has no clear vision of basic principles itself but rather seeks compromise between those who speak loudest,” it said in a statement.
Local human rights groups also expressed concern that Yudhoyono’s compromise with the radical Islamists meant these groups would demand more, including the dissolution of Ahmadiyah.
“The state has no right to tell people what to believe. It’s against our Constitution. Sticking to this principle, Yudhoyono should be firm in saying no to radical groups. They are the ones who want to get Ahmadiyah eradicated, not the people as whole. All the attacks were incited by them, not by the people around them,” Rafendi Jamin of the Human Rights Working Group said.
Meanwhile, young people like Ika who inherited their beliefs from their Ahmadi parents have been affected by the pressure by the radicals and the government.
Her five-year relationship with her boyfriend, who comes from traditional, non-Ahmadiyah family, turned sour for some time as his family did not want him to marry an Ahmadi.
“We broke up when we were just about to marry because the media headlines have categorized us as a weird and humiliating group. I tried to convince him that I would follow his beliefs to prevent the breakup but I failed,” she said.
But fortunately, their love turned out to be stronger than they had thought. They decided to make up and get married quickly while trying to convince their families.
“It is still hard and I feel alienated being an Ahmadi,” Ika said.