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Regional heads violate Constitution with bans
Bagus BT Saragih and Achmad Faisal, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Surabaya
While the Indonesian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, the government is backing regional heads who have issued restrictions on the religious activities of followers of Ahmadiyah.
East Java Governor Soekarwo on Monday issued a decree that prohibited all Ahmadis in the country’s second most populous province from conducting any kind of activities related to Ahmadiyah.
According to Soekarwo’s decree, Ahmadis are prohibited from distributing pamphlets and putting signs in front of their offices and mosques. They are also not allowed to wear anything to indicate that they are members of Ahmadiyah.
“This is for the sake of security and public order. It is my right to keep this region free from violence,” Soekarwo told a press conference.
Also attending the conference were East Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Badrodin Haiti, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) East Java chapter head Abdusshomad Bukhori, the head of the East Java Prosecutors’ Office Abdul Taufiq and Brawijaya Military Commander Maj. Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo.
Abdul said government leaders in the province were concerned about the recent fatal attack on an Ahmadiyah congregation in Cikeusik, Banten, that claimed three Ahmadis’ lives.
“With this policy we hope those who consider Ahmadiyah deviant will not commit violence,” he said.
Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi said such regulations are in line with the 2008 joint ministerial decree banning Ahmadiyah members from proselytizing.
East Java’s restriction on Ahmadis followed regulations issued in Samarinda and Pandeglang following the Cikeusik incident. All cited security issues as their basis.
Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) chairwoman Erna Ratnaningsih said the local rulings might instead exacerbate potential violence.
“The regulation could be taken as justification for pressures against Ahmadiyah,” she said.
Erna said banning Ahmadiyah was against Article 28 of the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen religious rights.
“Besides, religious affairs are supposed to be a central government matter according to the 2004 Regional Autonomy Law,” she said.
The law stipulates that the central government is in charge of foreign affairs, defense, security, the judiciary, monetary affairs and national fiscal policy as well as religious affairs. The rest is under the authority of local administrations.
Prior to the issuance of Soekarwo’s decree, 32 Islamic organizations had announced that they planned to carry out a massive rally in the provincial capital of Surabaya next week to demand the administration not allow Ahmadiyah in the province.
“If the government does not react immediately leaders in other regions will keep succumbing to pressures and continue banning Ahmadis,” Erna said.
Similar policies were also reportedly in effect in the provinces of South Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara and in the cities of Bogor and Kuningan prior to the Cikeusik incident.
Zafrullah Ahmad Pontoh, a spokesman for Ahmadiyah Indonesia, said he was disappointed with the ban.