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Ahmadiyah ‘not persecuted’ by government
Irawaty Wardany and Harry Bhaskara
The government has yet to announce a decision regarding a ban on the religious sect Ahmadiyah but said Wednesday it was working to protect the group from continued attacks.
“We are trying to cope with the issue. We have not arrived at a particular prescription for how to deal with it,” minister of foreign affairs Hassan Wirayuda said at a press briefing here Wednesday.
Ahmadiyah followers have been under fresh attacks in recent weeks following a recommendation from the Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society (Bakor Pakem) last month to ban the sect.
Sect followers have been subjected to repeated violence since the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a decree last year calling the group “heretical”.
A number of Ahmadiyah mosques, schools and houses have been attacked throughout the country.
Hassan was speaking on the sidelines of the third Global Media Dialogue titled “Ethical Journalism in Extreme Conditions: The Challenge of Diversity”.
The forum was attended by 130 journalists and editors from almost 70 countries.
Hassan said the Ahmadiyah case was one of the problems threatening the country’s unity, and that the violence against the sect’s followers was the result of horizontal conflict.
“Ahmadiyah followers are not persecuted by the government. There have been many horizontal conflicts among groups in our society,” he said, adding it seemed Ahmadiyah was not Islamic in terms of its teachings.
However, he said, the police had been taking measures to protect Ahmadiyah followers and to arrest those who had attacked followers of the sect.
At the opening of the conference, Hassan said no group or individual should be allowed to make an object of ridicule anything that is sacred to a community’s religion.
“That would be an act of reckless malice,” he said, commenting on the cartoons published in Denmark two years ago that depicted the Prophet Muhammad.
He called on media actors to strive for judicious balance between the freedom of expression and cultural sensitivity.
Wegard Harsvik, Norway’s deputy minister of culture and church affairs, pledged US$3 million to increase funding for freedom of expression and independent media efforts.
Harsvik said it would be used to boost freedom of expression and independent media in conflict areas.
Elisabeth Eide, a senior researcher from the University of Oslo, Norway, said that through such international media dialogues, she could see journalists were eager to see the world more than ever before.
“They realize they have to see the world from different perspectives and learn from each other,” she said.
Bambang Harymurti, a member of Indonesian Press Council, said there was a dynamic change in the relationship between the national and international realms.
“We should adapt to this situation and … at some point we should have a global code of ethics for journalists,” he said.