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Ahmadiyah women share ordeal
Mariani Dewi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Women of the Jamaah Islamiyah sect shared stories of their ordeal and bitter experiences after Muslim radicals renewed attacks on their mosques, houses and other assets.
The latest attack took place in the early hours of April 28, 2008 at Parakan Salak in Sukabumi, West Java, when an Ahmadiyah mosque was set ablaze.
“It was past midnight on Sunday when I heard loud noises outside. My mother and I were alone,” said Wina, a young woman living adjacent to site of the burned mosque.
“Some people passed through my front yard heading to the mosque,” she said.
“I peeked through the window and saw people throwing rocks at the mosque. We were afraid they would attack the houses too,” Wina told a news conference organized by Woman Journal non-governmental organization.
The attacks did not continue but the memory of the event and sight of the destroyed mosque still lingered in residents’ minds, Wina said.
“Children living around the mosque are now terrified. They could not sleep that night or for rest of the following day. On many subsequent evenings, they were frightened when night came and would keep asking me if it would happen again,” said Saidah, an activist from the Parakan Salak local Ahmadiyah women’s group.
“Whenever they heard loud noises from cars they woke up. Now police are still here, but what will happen when they go?” she said.
Ahmadiyah women’s group chairwoman Syrifatunisa Makih said many women and children were now afraid when saw “men dressed in white robes and caps”.
Ahmadiyah women from Manislor, West Java, shared similar experiences.
Their village has been under constant threat, on top of discrimination against Ahmadiyah followers dubbed “heretical” by a government panel.
The government is currently drafting a joint ministerial decree which if passed would outlaw Ahmadiyah.
Local villager Muti said she and her family had experienced repeated attacks on their home.
“My family was sleeping when the first attack took place. People were shouting outside our house so my husband and I hid under a chair. I forgot about my child on the bed when they started throwing stones at the house.
“My daughter woke up and shouted ‘Mom, Help! You forgot about me’”
“It was only then that I realized and rushed to grab her. I also had to stop my husband from going out to fight these people,” Muti said.
Muti’s daughter was in shock and was moved to her grandparents’ house. The family stayed there for some time before eventually moving back, but then the episode was repeated.
“I felt so much pain. It is so difficult to earn a living and build a house these days. Why was it destroyed? Even my son in-law’s house was attacked,” Muti said.
Another Ahmadiyah follower, Tuwina, said news of any big gatherings meant they needed to prepare themselves for violence.
“Whenever police notify us about events, we must get ready to protect our children,” she said.
“The six reported attacks were the biggest ones, but there have been countless other smaller attacks in the evenings.
“We have found it increasingly difficult to pray, especially after the local administration banned us. Our mosques were closed down and demolished.”
Kuningan regent Aang Hamid Suganda issued a decree to ban Ahmadiyah in 2005.
Tuwina said local Ahmadiyah members faced constant discrimination, including being banned from marrying in Kuningan.
They were also discriminated against when applying for personal identity cards, and their children were often bullied by peers and even teachers.
“Some kids come home from school crying because their schoolmates no longer call them by their names (but call them non-Muslim or infidel instead).
Older kids in high schools are often cornered and persecuted by their religious teachers,” Tuwina said.
Roostien Ilyas, an activist with the National Commission for Child Protection, said violence — for whatever reason — must be stopped.
“With each attack, we pass the values of anarchy and hatred on to our children. Children learn by imitating. They will learn to solve differences with violence,” she said at the same news conference.