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Ahmadi Killings Put Focus on Tiny Village
Nivell Rayda | February 09, 2011
Just last week, hardly anyone had ever heard of Umbulan village in the Cikeusik subdistrict of Pandeglang — except for a few firebrand clerics. But after the bloody attack here against members of the Ahmadiyah sect on Sunday, which saw three people killed and five others badly injured, the nation has been fixated on news from the village. (Antara Photo)
Pandeglang, Banten. Just last week, hardly anyone had ever heard of Umbulan village in the Cikeusik subdistrict of Pandeglang – except for a few firebrand clerics. But after the bloody attack here against members of the Ahmadiyah sect on Sunday, which saw three people killed and five others badly injured, the nation has been fixated on news from the village.
Zulkifli, a 21-year-old resident of nearby Malingping town, said he first heard of the little-known village during the anniversary of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) last August.
“The anniversary was celebrated here [in Malingping]. FPI paraded through the city and staged a mass sermon,” he said, pointing to a nearby field.
Zulkifli recounted seeing public officials and senior police officers among the crowd, numbering around 1,000.
“It is halal for the blood of an Ahmadi to be spilled,” he quoted a local cleric named Madzuri, who led the sermon, as saying. “I have received instructions from our leader, Habib Rizieq. Ahmadiyah must be driven out of Banten,” the cleric added.
His words were met with thunderous applause, Zulkifli said. The cleric was referring to FPI leader Rizieq Shihab, who was sentenced for leading an attack against a religious tolerance group in 2008.
The Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI), however, was cautious in pointing fingers. “We don’t know if any organization was involved in the attack. We do know that the attackers were well organized.” JAI spokesman Firdaus Mubarik said.
Atep Suratep, an Ahmadiyah member from Umbulan, said similar calls for violence against the sect were reportedly heard during mass sermons in Cibaliung and Menes, also in Banten.
“Even our subdistrict chief [Abdjah] promised the FPI that he would get the Ahmadiyah out of his village shortly after he was inaugurated two years ago,” Atep said.
Mainstream Muslim groups accuse Ahmadiyah members of heresy, saying that they profess their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be the final prophet of Islam — a tenet that runs directly against Islamic beliefs that reserve that claim for Muhammad.
The accusation is disputed by the Ahmadiyah community, but this claim is largely behind the 2008 joint ministerial decree banning Ahmadiyah members from spreading its faith.
Atep said the Umbulan Ahmadis were once summoned to the district chief’s office where they were accused of violating the ministerial decree.
“We have been following every article in the decree. We did not actively spread our faith. All we did is pray with other Ahmadis, nothing more,” he said.
Ahmadiyah roots in the village date back to 1994, when Ismail Suparman became the first and only Ahmadi in Umbulan. Five years later he ventured out of the village in pursuit of his religion and returned in 2009.
“Since his return, there have been many villagers that converted to Ahmadiyah. This is worrying for the Islamic community in Cikeusik. We have tried to dissuade Suparman from proselytizing his faith but he remained headstrong,” Cikeusik chief Abdjah told reporters.
“Suparman’s reluctance to stop his activities is what caused the mob’s outrage.”
But Atep denied this. “Of course when Suparman joined Ahmadiyah, a lot of his childhood friends became curious and asked him. He explained the Ahmadiyah beliefs to them and they grew interested,” he said.
Still, the growth to 25 Ahmadiyah followers in the little village appeared to have been taken as a threat. On Sunday, MUI [Indonesian Council of Ulama] Banten chief Wahaf Afif said the attack could have been prevented if the Ahmadiyah groups practicing in the province had been disbanded earlier.
Wahaf said his group had sent a letter to the Banten High Prosecutor’s Office four months ago requesting that all Ahmadiyah congregations in the province be disbanded. “But they [Ahmadis] are still around and now this incident occurred,” he said. “Their presence is not only felt in Cikeusik but in so many parts of Banten. We had anticipated the anxiety felt by residents, which is why we sent that letter. We regret that the prosecutor’s office did not follow our request.”
Atep said, though, that while they practice their faith in secrecy, they had been living peacefully with the rest of the villagers. “Ordinary people are nice to us. They accept us for who we are,” he said.
One of them is 45-year-old Dedi Setiadi, a mainstream Muslim resident of Umbulan, who said he didn’t recognize members of the mob that arrived on Sunday.
“I don’t know where they’re from. The villagers here would never commit such a heinous act. In fact, some of us hid the victims at our homes to keep them safe,” he said.
Although ostracized by relatives, 66-year-old Agus Jayadi and his wife Warsinah, both mainstream Muslims, said they loved their two sons Atep and Rafiudin, who joined Ahmadiyah in 2009.
“My son brought his Koran and my husband compared it with ours — they’re the same. The way we pray is the same. We worship the same God and follow the teachings of the same prophet,” Warsinah said.