DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Nearly 200 members of a breakaway Muslim sect in Indonesia may seek asylum in Australia because of persecution, a leader of the group said on Monday.
Members of the Ahmadiyah sect, which views itself as Muslim but has been branded heretical by critics, met the Australian consul on the resort island of Bali on Monday to put forward their case.
Samsir Ali, an adviser to sect members on the neighbouring island of Lombok, cited a local decree outlawing the group.
“Because in our country alone, it is not secure and we don’t have legal protection, there is no other way,” Ali told reporters after his meeting.
Ali said that 187 members in Lombok could seek asylum.
“The West Lombok government has interfered in our faith and way of life,” he added.
Islamic radicals have damaged mosques and other facilities belonging to the Ahmadiyah group, whose teachings differ from the central tenets of mainstream Islam.
It has been branded a heretical group by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the secular country’s highest Muslim authority, which has issued a fatwa, or edict, against it.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, but groups branded as deviant or heretical periodically spring up.
An asylum request could be sensitive.
Bilateral ties between Australia and Indonesia soured in March after Canberra granted temporary visas to 42 asylum seekers from Papua who sailed to Australia and accused Indonesia of conducting genocide in their homeland, a claim Jakarta denies.