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July 30, 2010
A group of people believed to be Ahmadiyah followers fight back as Indonesian mainstream Muslims try to attack their mosque in Manislor village, Kuningan district, on Thursday. (AFP Photo/Yonda)
Ahmadiyah Clashes Continue in Indonesia
As the standoff between West Java villagers and followers of the Ahmadiyah sect entered its fourth day, the Ministry of Religious Affairs said it was trying to mediate the week-long dispute, which flared into violence again on Thursday.
Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said the tension was essentially a “political problem.” He did not elaborate further but urged the warring parties to settle their dispute peacefully.
“Differences of opinion over religion should not be solved with violence but through discussion,” he said.
The Ahmadiyah is perceived as a deviant sect by mainstream Islam. The government has stopped the group from worshiping in public but has fallen short of banning it altogether.
After a failed attempt to seal the sect’s mosques in a village in Kuningan on Monday, police and the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) followed through with the closures on Wednesday, meeting fierce resistance.
“Government officials have an obligation to protect citizens without looking at their beliefs,” Ifdhal Kasim, the chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday. “Sealing their house of worship is against the Constitution.”
Ahmadiyah followers and security forces clashed again on Thursday as groups opposed to the sect joined local police and Mobile Brigade (Brimob) units trying to close several mosques.
Groups claiming to support a pure form of Islam against the Ahmadiyah gathered around the entrance to Manis Lor village in Kuningan in the morning, following the sealing of eight Ahmadiyah mosques in the village, a local police officer said.
“At first, the anti-Ahmadiyah groups pelted the mosque with stones. The followers of Ahmadiyah were angry because their mosque was attacked, and there was fighting,” the officer said of Thursday’s violence, which reportedly stopped just after midday prayers. Ifdhal said Ahmadiyah followers were the real victims in the violence.
“They face many forms of discrimination. Their access to education and livelihood is limited and at the same time they are facing a government that facilitates the discrimination,” he said.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, said the state should guarantee religious freedom to all, including the Ahmadiyah.
The group is often a target of orthodox Muslims worldwide because of its claim that the sect’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is the last prophet, a view many consider blasphemy.
The government passed a decree in 2008 prohibiting the sect from practicing its faith in public or trying to convert others to its beliefs. [**]
According to Setara, which monitors religious tolerance, the past month has seen a sharp increase in acts of violence against the Ahmadiyah, especially in West Java.
“The use of public pressure and regional government power has been a systematic pattern in violations of religious freedom recently,” Bonar said.
The Kuningan district government has used pressure groups to back its effort to close the Ahmadiyah mosques in Manis Lor, but Bonar doubts they are local villagers. “According to our sources, these people did not come from Kuningan, but from other areas such as Ciamis and Tasikmalaya,” he said.
Bonar urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to show his commitment to pluralism by speaking out against the violence.