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Indonesia President Urged to Renounce Comments From Religious Affairs Minister
November 04, 2010
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has failed to repudiate religiously inflammatory comments from Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, pictured, leading many to believe that he supports such an action, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. Suryadharma has repeatedly called for Ahmadiyah to be banned. (Antara Photo)
Jakarta. Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should uphold freedom of religion in Indonesia and repudiate statements by his religious affairs minister calling for the banning of the Ahmadiyah religion, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday in a letter to the Indonesian president.
Since August 2010, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali has repeatedly called for the Ahmadiyah faith to be banned in Indonesia. Yudhoyono has failed to repudiate those statements, leading many to believe that he supports such an action, the international nongovernmental organization said in a statement.
In recent years Islamist militants have repeatedly attacked and burned Ahmadiyah homes and mosques. Anti-Ahmadiyah violence has increased since Yudhoyono announced a prohibition on teachings or public displays of the Ahmadiyah religion in June 2008, the statement read.
“President Yudhoyono gave a nationwide speech about religious tolerance in the United States, but what will he tell visiting US President Barack Obama about the burned Ahmadiyah mosques in Indonesia?” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Yudhoyono should take clear steps to protect religious freedom, starting with loudly rejecting any ban on the Ahmadis, and ensuring that those responsible for attacks on Ahmadiyah homes and mosques are prosecuted.”
The Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, a human rights group in Jakarta, recorded 33 cases of attacks in 2009 against the Ahmadiyah community. In late July, municipal police and hundreds of people organized by militant Islamist groups forcibly tried to close an Ahmadiyah mosque in Manis Lor village. On Oct. 1, mobs attacked the Ahmadiyah community in Cisalada, south of Jakarta, burning their mosque and several houses; a Quran inside the mosque was accidently burned.
The statement said that Indonesian law facilitated discrimination against the Ahmadiyah, who identify themselves as Muslims but differ with other Muslims as to whether Muhammad was the “final” monotheist prophet.
The June 2008 decree requires the Ahmadiyah to “stop spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam,” including “spreading the belief that there is another prophet with his own teachings after Prophet Muhammad.” Violations of the decree can result in prison sentences of up to five years.
Human Rights Watch has called for the government to rescind this decree, saying it violates the right to freedom of religion.
A ban against the Ahmadiyah would violate guarantees of freedom of religion in articles 28 and 29 of the Indonesian Constitution, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Indonesia in February 2006, which protects the right to freedom of religion and to engage in religious practice.
“President Yudhoyono should order Minister Suryadharma to stop playing with fire with his demands to ban the Ahmadiyah,” Robertson said. “Formalizing religious discrimination increases the vulnerability of Ahmadiyah and opens the door for further attacks and wider communal violence. This is hardly the recipe for promoting Indonesia as a modern, rights-respecting state.”
Suryadharma has previously stated that the Indonesian government would not tolerate violence in religious disputes, the police would enforce the 2008 decree and warned that the Ahmadiyah “had better stop their activities.”
On Aug. 31 he said: “To ban [the Ahmadiyah] is far better than to let them be … To outlaw them would mean that we are working hard to stop deviant acts from continuing.”