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Indonesians call for disbanding of ‘heretical’ Muslim sect
The Associated Press,Jakarta
Thousands of conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian capital Wednesday to demand the government disband an Islamic sect they consider heretical.
The white-robed protesters also demanded the authorities release hard-liners arrested last week in connection with an attack on members of the Ahmadiyah sect and their supporters that injured several people.
“We want the president to issue a decree disbanding Ahmadiyah,” cleric Abdul Roshid told a crowd of around 3,000 protesters outside the presidential palace.
Ahmadiyah, which has followers around the world, is considered deviant by most Muslims and banned in many Islamic countries because of its belief that Muhammad was not the final prophet.
In recent years, hard-liners in Indonesia have attacked the group’s mosques and intimidated some of its 200,000 followers.
Responding to pressure from the conservatives, the government last week issued a decree that ordered Ahmadiyah members to stop spreading their beliefs or face imprisonment.
The move was criticized by civil rights activists, who said it threatened Indonesia’s long traditions of secularism and freedom of religion, but did not satisfy the hard-liners.
“The joint decree by the president’s ministers was not enough to calm down Indonesian Muslims insulted by Ahmadiyah,” said Roshid.
Indonesia has more Muslims than any other country in the world, some 210 million. Most practice a moderate form of the faith, but an increasingly vocal extremist fringe appears to be gaining influence over the government, which relies on political support from Islamic parties.(*)