Sect monitoring board ‘must be disbanded’
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The government should dissolve its official body which is allowed to ban religious sects, because it has disrupted the country’s legal system, human rights groups say.
They said the Coordinating Board for Mystical Beliefs (Bakor Pakem) served as a judicial forum which “overrides the role of the existing judicial institution” to enforce the law.
The board consists the Attorney General’s Office, police, the National Intelligence Agency and the Religious Affairs Ministry.
“Bakor Pakem is the legacy of the New Order (regime) and should be disbanded because it has disrupted the integrated legal system,” said a joint statement signed by the Human Rights Working Group and the Indonesian Legal Resource Center.
The statement, received by The Jakarta Post on Wednesday night, was issued in response to the board’s decision on Ahmadiyah, which was declared a heretical Islamic sect by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).
The rights groups hailed the board’s decision not to ban Ahmadiyah, but said the move showed a “clear intervention of the state into the freedom of religion” in Indonesia.
This was against the constitution, which guarantees religious freedom and the law which ratifies the international covenant on individuals’ civilian and political rights, they said.
“Therefore, we urge the Indonesian President to dissolve Bakor Pakem and, in dealing with religious freedom, return the law enforcement role to the legal system,” the statement said.
“We also urge the government to stop intervening in the religious affairs of its citizens.”
Bakor Pakem coordinator Wisnu Subroto said Thursday the MUI “cannot dictate” the decisions his board makes on Islamic sects.
“MUI has authority to declare whether a group is deviant or not, based on Islamic principles, but the government (the board) will make its own decision whether to dissolve a group or not,” he told the Post.
Wisnu, who is the deputy attorney general of intelligence, said the board gave Ahmadiyah three months to prove it was committed to its new stance that recognized Muhammad as the last prophet of Islam.
The MUI considered Ahmadiyah to be a deviant sect because it recognized its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the last prophet.
Bakor Pakem threatened to reverse the decision on Ahmadiyah should the group fail to commit to its declaration.
“We have given Ahmadiyah followers the opportunity to return to the right path, and their activities will be monitored and evaluated over the next three months,” Wisnu said.
He said, however, the board would consider human rights and constitutional factors when making decisions on Ahmadiyah.
“We can’t just dissolve or ban something but we should have good reasons for doing so,” he said.