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The forgotten Ahmadiyah women
Winy Trianita, Jakarta
Watching violence against Ahmadiyah on TV (again!) has encouraged me to present another side of the Ahmadiyah which usually receives little public attention; i.e. Ahmadi women.
People might know the Aisyiah of Muhammadiyah or the Muslimat of Nahdlatul Ulama, but few realize that Ahmadiyah also has its own women’s organization, namely Lajnah Ima’illah Indonesia.
Being part of a minority, as well as of a controversial religious group, is not an easy for women. As the teachings of Ahmadiyah are regarded as heresy and a deviation within Islam, Ahmadi women have to face the stigma of being considered by some as infidels or apostates. More than that, many of them have to experience discrimination, alienation and even violence. Thus, Ahmadi women face a more complex social life than most women in Indonesia.
Some Ahmadi women were born into Ahmadi families, but others became Ahmadis because they were attracted to the controversial doctrines of Ahmadiyah; e.g. the prophethood of Ghulam Ahmad and the death of Isa. Generally, those who were not born into Ahmadi families face greater challenges compared to those who belong to Ahmadi families. This is because when they made their decision to join Ahmadiyah, they had to deal with confrontation or even exclusion by their own families.
Thus their first struggle with being Ahmadis is to convince their families that they have the right to choose their own beliefs. In this regard, I would say this is one of the ways that Ahmadi women practice their freedom, freely selecting their religious affiliation.
Another consequence of being part of a minority religious group is that they have to cope with discrimination from those who express enmity toward Ahmadiyah. Discrimination potentially occurs not only in the surrounding neighborhoods but also in the workplace. Therefore, it is important to note that extra bravery and extra self-endurance become necessary in order for these women to survive.
With regard to the role of Ahmadi women as mothers, they have the extra task to protect and prepare their children to live as Ahmadis. Children often become the target of mockery because they are different from their friends. Thus, Ahmadi women play an important role in building confidence in their children so they can preserve their identity.
Ahmadi women are not only precious for their own religious community, but also for Indonesian society at large. Unfortunately, because of their religious beliefs many people tend to ignore the fact that Ahmadi women can be seen as remarkable models of how women deal with hardship. Instead, many people prefer to judge Ahmadi women simply as followers of a deviant sect.
Lajnah Ima’illah Indonesia, the Ahmadiyah women’s wing, may be less known compared to other women’s organizations in Indonesia. This despite the fact more than 1,000 of its members are registered eye donors, making the organization the one with the most registered eye donors in the country. This great contribution is often ignored due to their controversial religious beliefs.
The Ahmadi women’s organization promote tolerance by conducting social activities that are not only for Ahmadis but also for non-Ahmadis. By using the doctrine of pengorbanan (sacrifice), Ahmadi women are able to play an active role in society. Regardless of their affiliation with Ahmadiyah, we can see how women who are part of a community that is repressed are capable of becoming social actors instead of being simply followers of men.
Looking at a different side of Ahmadiyah, I hope, can help people understand that differences need not lead to enmity. We should appreciate minority groups, which in truth make significant contributions to society. Why not build tolerance and begin to develop our country together?
The writer is a graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies Program at UIN Jakarta. She can be reached at winy_three @ yahoo.com.