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Students demand closure of mosque
Indah Setiawati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
While Indonesia grieves over a series of recent natural disasters, some college students preferred instead to hold a wanton protest against the existence of an Ahmadiyah mosque in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta. City authorities reportedly voiced their support.
City spokesman Cucu Ahmad Kurnia underlined Friday that any violent actions would not be tolerated, but said “the [Ahmadiyah] sect should be disbanded if it triggers public restlessness.”
Around 20 students staged a protest in front of the Ahmadiyah mosque, located in Kebon Bawang subdistrict, after Friday prayers. They demanded the Jakarta Police close the Nuruddin Mosque down.
The Nuruddin Mosque congregation violates Islamic customs, said protesters from the Islamic college Dakwah Islam, which is also located in Tanjung Priok.
The demonstrators held a plywood placard with the message, “This place is sealed; Ahmadiyah activity is forbidden here”.
The protesters, who wore traditional white caps and Islamic male shirts known as baju koko, accused the congregation of imposing deviations of Islamic custom, mosque employee Hendro Suyono said.
“We asked one of the protesters to check whether our teachings were divergent from Islam. The man later checked our syahadat [creed] which is painted on our pulpit,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
However, the protesters continued to demand the mosque must be sealed before eventually leaving the area 30 minutes later — but not before warning that the mosque congregation had one week to comply with their demands. They also said the Jakarta Police had promised them that they would seal the mosque. However, Tanjung Priok Police chief Comr. Budhi Hendro Susianto did not acknowledge the demonstrator’s claim.
Around 50 police officers from the police subprecinct safeguarded the site on Friday.
Mosque worker Hendro told the Post that the mosque had been the object of intimidation for the past week.
“Three men claiming to be from the same crowd came to the mosque last Tuesday. They wanted us to cease our religious activities, and they also accused us of having a different holy book and kiblat [the direction in which Muslims should face when praying],” he said.
Hendro added that last Sunday the mosque had also received complaints from the same crowd. “That time they came with support from the neighborhood and community unit management, asking us to pull down our mosque signpost,” he said, adding that the mosque administration later complied with the demand.
The mosque, which is located inside a residential area, was established 24 years ago. The mosque reportedly now has around 200 followers, including children.
According to resident Siti, 35, there was no conflict in relation to the mosque’s existence before the Friday protest. “I am puzzled as to why the students held a protest against the congregation. All this time, residents and the congregation have lived peacefully,” she said, as quoted by tempointeraktif.com.
The administration would try to use dialogue as a soft approach to the Ahmadiyah followers, city spokesman Cucu said.
Recently, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo reiterated his administration’s commitment to protecting freedom of religion, so that houses of worship of any religion can be built and maintained, adding that his administration would ensure Jakarta residents could pray without discrimination or disturbance.
“The best asset in our country is interfaith harmony,” the governor said. (ipa)