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March 29, 2009
Islamic Party PPP Woos Hard-Liners
The United Development Party, or PPP, has resorted to calling on the government to dissolve the controversial Islamic sect Ahmadiyah in an effort to appeal to conservative Muslim voters ahead of the April 9 legislative elections.
PPP chairman Suryadharma Ali, who is a member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet, asserted during a campaign rally on Sunday that the Ahmadiyah sect had violated Islamic teachings, state-run Antara news agency reported.
“Ahmadiyah must be dissolved because it has disrespected the feelings and honor of Muslims,” he told more than 10,000 party supporters in Jakarta.
Suryadharma said the growing number of cases of insults against religion, be it Islam or the other state-recognized religions, had occurred due to what he called “over-the-line democracy,” where freedoms had been taken too far after the end of the late President Suharto’s authoritarian New Order regime.
“It is fine to be free, but every freedom has its limit,” he said.
An Islamic party set up during the New Order era, PPP has seen its popularity suffer over the last decade. In elections in 1997, shortly before the end of Suharto’s rule, it gained 20 percent of the vote, while in 1999 it secured 11 percent, and in 2004, only 8 percent.
The Ahmadiyah community has become a target in recent years for hard-line Muslims, who consider it “heretical.” Attacks against Ahmadiyah escalated in mid-2008, culminating in the government issuing a joint ministerial decree banning its activities, in particular “spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam.”
There are approximately 200,000 followers of Ahmadiyah who believe the sect’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the last prophet of Islam — contradicting one of the fundamental doctrines of orthodox Islam.