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Indonesian sect meets Australia’s consul
July 24, 2006 - 7:44PM
An Indonesian Islamic sect which claims it has been persecuted by extremist Muslims met with Australia’s consul in Bali to seek support, warning they may lodge pleas for political asylum.
Asylum claims lodged by a group of 43 Papuans plunged Indonesian and Australian relations to a fresh low earlier this year before Prime Minister John Howard promised support for Indonesian unity.
Two leaders from Ahmadiyah, a minority Muslim group, met with Australia’s vice consul in Bali, Adelaide Worcester, to complain about the harassment and eviction of 187 sect followers in neighbouring Lombok island.
Over the past few months one of their members had been stabbed to death and more than 50 houses had been torched by Islamic hardliners.
As a result, most were now living in a temporary shelter in the Lombok capital Mataram.
“We met (Worcester) and talked about what we have been going through, and we think Australia is one of the countries which is concerned about human rights,” sect spokesman Syamsul Ali said.
“Australia has accepted our brothers from Pakistan who requested asylum. We hope we can get it too.”
Sect members, he said, were so frustrated, they were also considering applying for asylum in countries including Germany, Japan and the US.
“This is a dead end, and the only way is to ask for political asylum,” Ali said.
“In a radical country, Ahmadiyah will always be preyed upon.”
Ahmadiyah sect members have infuriated extremist Muslims with claims that Mohammed was not the last prophet.
Followers describe their version of Islam, founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in India, as the one prophesied in the Koran and by Mohammed himself.
Hardliners last year attacked the sect’s annual meeting in Bogor, south of Jakarta, throwing stones and bricks at participants, while Indonesia’s peak Islamic body, the Indonesian Ulemas Council, declared the group heretical.
Ali said Indonesia’s government and security forces had done nothing to stop the violence against them, recommending only that they move to Borneo island.
“But who can guarantee we will not be murdered there?” Ali said, pointing to bloodletting between local Dayak people and Muslim immigrants from Madura island in 1999.
Australian consulate officials refused to comment on whether the meeting took place.