Recommend UsEmail this PageeGazetteAlislam.org
‘We Are Ready to Leave This Country’: Displaced Ahmadis Plead for Answers
Fitri | September 12, 2010
Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara. Idul Fitri should serve as a reminder never to give up, an imam, Nasiruddin Ahmadi, told his congregation of nearly 200 Ahmadiyah members as he led prayers on Friday at a transit shelter on the island of Lombok.
The shelter in the West Nusa Tenggara capital, Mataram, is home to 22 families who belong to the minority Muslim sect. They have been there since February 2006, when they were evicted from West Lingsar village by the district administration in West Lombok.
Ever since electricity was cut off two years ago and the government stopped providing food aid, the displaced families have had to fend for themselves.
“Even though Ramadan has come and gone, the spirit of Ramadan is always present in our lives,” Nasiruddin said during the sermon on Friday. “If Idul Fitri is the day of triumph, then make sure that triumph is evident in your daily lives.”
While Muslims across the country traveled to their hometowns to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, the Ahmadis in Mataram marked the holy festival at the transit shelter with a meal that included two donated goats.
Sahiddin, the group’s leader, said the goats were donated by other Ahmadi groups so that they could celebrate Idul Fitri with goat curry and ketupat , rice cakes traditionally associated with the holiday.
“What was most important, however, was that we were able to pay zakat fitrah [alms], as is the duty of every Muslim,” he said.
But Idul Fitri this year was also marked by hardship for Ahmadiyah followers. Last week, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali reiterated his belief that the group should be banned, claiming that it would be good for both the country and Ahmadiyah followers.
A ban, he said, would protect the group’s members from attack and also help bring them into the fold of mainstream Islam.
Founded in India in 1889, Ahmadiyah holds that the sect’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet — a belief contested by mainstream Muslims.
Suryadharma said that the government could ban Ahmadiyah by using the 1965 Blasphemy Law and a joint decree, issued in 2008 by the Attorney General’s Office and the ministries of religious affairs and home affairs, that restricts the group’s religious activities.
The 2008 decree stops short of banning the sect, but prohibits Ahmadiyah followers from publicly practicing their faith and from proselytizing. According to Suryadharma, all Ahmadis want to follow mainstream Islam, and therefore “it is the duty of every Islamic figure to take them in, teach them the correct way of the religion.”
The minister also said that until a ban was enacted, Ahmadiyah followers would continue to be targets of violent attacks by hard-line groups. “Why don’t you study the reactions toward Ahmadiyah?” he said. “We believe such harsh reactions are because there are rules that are not being followed.”
Despite the upbeat Idul Fitri celebrations at the shelter, Sahiddin said he was concerned about the minister’s remarks.
“His statements reminded us of the time when we had written to the Mataram mayor, Ruslan, in 2009,” he said, explaining that the group had decided to write to the mayor after spending its fourth year celebrating Idul Fitri in the shelter.
“We begged him to let us go back to our homes in Lingsar subdistrict, West Lombok. He refused us.
“We told him that if he could not give us a stable home to live in — and if we were indeed in violation of the Blasphemy Law — then he should just imprison us, every single one of us, all together. We still hold steadfast to our faith.”
Sahiddin said the group would gladly move to any other country if it was no longer welcome in Indonesia. “We are ready to leave this country and go wherever we are accepted,” he said.