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Attorney general asked to defend religious freedom at home
Irawaty Wardany, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
An alliance of communities fighting for religious freedom has called on the Attorney General’s Office to stick to the 1945 Constitution in determining whether the Ahmadiyah sect should be banned.
People grouped in the National Alliance for Freedom of Religion and Faith staged a demonstration in front of the Attorney Genera’s Office building and the National Police headquarters on Monday demanding the attorney general disregard a fatwa issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).
“One of the reasons why we came here today was because we heard that the (Attorney General’s Office) will hold a meeting with a body overseeing various beliefs in the public on Wednesday to determine the status of Ahmadiyah,” Jakarta Legal Aid Institute director Asfinawati told reporters after meeting representatives of the office.
She said that alliance would encourage the office to use the Constitution rather than the to decide Ahmadiyah’s fate.
The MUI issued an edict declaring Ahmadiyah a heretic sect after founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed he was a prophet.
“The (Attorney General’s Office) is the key to upholding religious freedom, so we expect the (office) not to make its decision based on the MUI’s edict only,” Asfinawati said.
She added that the alliance would also remind the National Police to be neutral and independent in responding to the case.
“We see indications that the police have paid no attention to cases of violence against the Ahmadiyah community,” she said.
“There were many threats that ended in violence against by Ahmadiyah members but the government and law enforcers did nothing about that.”
She added that they had sent letters of complaint to the National Police several times since 2005 but nothing had been done.
J.H. Lamardy, an Ahmadiyah member, said that the government had generally ignored violence against Ahmadiyah members.
“Take the incident in Pangauban, Garut, West Java for example. The Ahmadiyah community received a threat a week prior to the violent action took place and reported it to the police. But the police did not respond,” he said.
He also said that the destruction of Ahmadiyah property, took place in the presence of police personnel.
“In the incident in Manislor, Kuningan, West Java, it was even worse. The Ahmadiyah community had received a threat two weeks before the real action,” said Lamardy.
“The threat even more explicitly indicated that the attackers would do real damage and (that it would be a) bloody incident if we did not close our mosque.”
He added such attacks had damaged seven Ahmadiyah mosques as well as dozens of houses of Ahmadiyah members and that the police had done nothing.
“If the (Attorney General’s Office) decides that Ahmadiyah is heretical, what will happen the 500,000 sect members?” Lamardy said.
A. H. Semendawai, deputy director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy said that if the police continued to ignore the attacks, people would believe that they were sanctioning them.
Preacher Gomar Gultom said that the Ahmadiyah community was not the only group suffering.
“In some regions, the administrations have even forcibly closed down some churches, like in Bandung, West Java and Tambora district, West Jakarta,” he said.