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Indonesian hardliners rally against ‘deviant’ sect
JAKARTA (AFP) — Hundreds of white-clad Muslim hardliners took to the streets of the Indonesian capital Monday to demand the government ban a minority Islamic sect branded “deviant” by top clerics.
Firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was among more than 1,500 protesters from various Islamist groups who chanted slogans, shouted Allahu akbar (God is greater) and waved banners condemning the Ahmadiyah sect.
They blocked the street in front of Jakarta’s presidential palace to demand President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issue a decree to ban the sect, which has been the subject of months of heated debate.
Bashir, who was convicted but subsequently cleared of conspiracy over the deadly Bali bombings of 2002, told the crowd through a loudspeaker that the sect was “the most dangerous enemy of Islam.”
“Ahmadiyah is the enemy of Islam. They are the infidels that have been trying to destroy Islam, not using violence but through their deviant principles,” he said.
“Ahmadiyah must be dissolved as it is more dangerous than communism.”
The controversy has raised questions about tolerance and pluralism in the world’s most populous Muslim country, where religious freedom is a constitutional right.
Calls to ban Ahmadiyah have been mounting since June when the government ordered the sect, which has peacefully practised its faith in Indonesia since the 1920s, to stop spreading its belief that Mohammed was not the last prophet.
The ministerial decree fell short of the ban demanded by Muslim leaders after the country’s top Islamic body issued a fatwa describing the sect as “deviant.”
Ahmadiyah, which claims 500,000 followers in Indonesia, holds that its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the final prophet and not Mohammed, contradicting a central tenet of mainstream Islam.