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Govt calls it a day for Ahmadiyah
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The government, bowing to intense pressure from extremist groups, has ordered Jamaah Ahmadiyah to stop all religious activities or face legal prosecution.
A joint ministerial decree banning the activities of the minority Islamic sect was issued Monday, the same day thousands of hard-liners gathered in front of the Presidential Palace to demand the government move against the group.
The government said the regulation was effective from Monday, but set no deadline for Ahmadiyah to halt its activities or face prosecution.
The decree, signed by Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni, Home Minister Mardiyanto and Attorney General Hendarman Supandji, also stopped short of explicitly banning or dissolving the sect.
“There is no disbandment,” Hendarman said after the issuance of the joint decree.
The document orders Ahmadiyah followers to turn to the beliefs of the “mainstream Islam”.
It prohibits the sect from “spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam”.
Such activities include “the spreading of the belief that there is another prophet with his own teachings after the Prophet Muhammad”.
Ahmadiyah believes its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, not Muhammad, is the last prophet of Islam, defying one of the basic doctrines of the religion.
It is not clear if the decree means that Ahmadiyah followers, numbering around 200,000 in the country, are still allowed to worship in private.
“As long as they claim themselves to be Muslims, they must stop believing that there is another prophet after Muhammad. And as Muslims, they have to follow the mainstream teachings of Islam,” Basyuni said.
“If we find them continuing with their misinterpretation of Islamic teachings, they will face legal action,” the religious affairs minister said.
The decree also warns of legal prosecution for those attacking Ahmadiyah followers.
The attorney general said anyone attacking sect members could be charged under the law on hate crimes.
In a news conference late Monday at the Wahid Institute in Jakarta, the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB) slammed the decree as unconstitutional.
The alliance plans to file a lawsuit against the government over the decree in the next two to three days, saying the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
“It proves that the government can be pressured by hard-line groups,” said Wahid Institute executive director Ahmad Suaedy, also an AKKBB member.
The ministerial decree came as thousands of hard-liners threatened to launch jihad, or holy war against Ahmadiyah during an angry protest in downtown Jakarta.
The protest, which started at 9:30 a.m. outside the presidential office, caused heavy traffic congestion, forcing police to reroute traffic, including Transjakarta buses, from several main thoroughfares.
The protesters, from several hard-line groups including the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, then marched to Jakarta Police Headquarters on Jl. Sudirman, where FPI leader Rizieq Shihab is being detained.
They demanded police release Rizieq, who is accused of leading a violent attack on pro-pluralism activists from the AKKBB on June 1 at the National Monument (Monas).
Police on Monday seized a knife from one protester, identified as Burhani, 28, and arrested him.
“I use it to peel apples …,” Burhani told reporters.
Rizieq was brought from his detention cell to meet with his supporters for around five minutes. In a short speech, he demanded the dissolution of Ahmadiyah.(nkn/ind)