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Jakarta — About 300 people set fire early Monday to a mosque in Indonesia’s West Java province belonging to the Islamic splinter group Ahmadiyyah, which has been branded heretical by most Muslims, police and local media reports said. No casualties were reported in the latest vandalism against the Ahmadiyah sect in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Besides setting fire to the mosque, the attackers also heavily damaged a school building inside the Ahmadiyah compound in the Sukabumi district, the state-run Antara news agency reported.
Ahmadiyah followers living in the compound did not resist when the attackers vandalized the group’s property shortly after midnight, witnesses were quoted as saying.
The head of Sukabumi’s police detectives, Jajang Tardiana, told Elshinta private radio that eight people were detained for questioning in connection with the attack.
Three days earlier, dozens of Muslim activists had gathered outside the compound, accusing the Ahmadiyah followers of heretical teachings and demanding they stop their activity.
Ahmadiyah has been declared heretical for believing its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who died in 1908 in India, is the last prophet, not Mohammed, who mainstream Muslims worldwide believe was God’s final messenger.
An Indonesian government team is drafting a decree that would ban the Ahmadiyah sect, which views itself as Muslim but has been branded heretical by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the secular country’s highest Muslim authority, which has issued a fatwa, or edict, against it.
On April 20, about 2,000 people from several Muslim hardliner groups gathered in front of the presidential palace in Jakarta to press the government to immediately ban Ahmadiyah.
A team of officials from two government ministries and the attorney general’s office has recommended the government ban the sect because its teachings deviate from the central tenets of Islam.
In late 2005, thousands of people attacked and vandalized Ahmadiyah’s compounds in several cities, damaging or setting fire to buildings and mosques.
Ahmadiyah, or Jemaah Ahmadiyah Qadiyan, is little known in Indonesia with an estimated 200,000 followers. About 88 per cent of Indonesia’s 225 million people are Muslims, most of them moderates who tolerate other beliefs.