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June 02, 2009
Hard-Liners Seek Out Pair Willing to Ban Ahmadiyah
Hundreds of protesters from several hard-line Islamic groups rallied on Monday, and declared support for presidential candidates who would support Shariah law and formally ban the Ahmadiyah religious movement.
“We reject presidential tickets who do not support Muslims and instead support the United States,” said Chep Hermawan, who led the rally outside the Presidential Palace complex in Central Jakarta, without mentioning any specific ticket.
The rally was held on the anniversary of the Indonesian Defender Front (FPI) attack on a peaceful demonstration organized by the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion at Monas in Central Jakarta last year.
The protest was marked by 70 Ahmadiyah followers renouncing their beliefs and pledging to become mainstream Muslims.
The protesters were mainly drawn from members of the hard-line FPI and Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) from around Jakarta.
FPI Secretary General Sobri Lubis said there was no reason for them to vote for presidential candidates who could not promise that they would ban Ahmadiyah, an Islamic sect declared as heretical by the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) in 2005.
“We demand that Ahmadiyah be banned through a formal presidential decree instead of merely a joint ministerial decree,” he said. “We will vote for a candidate who can guarantee that.”
The high-profile attack on the Monas demonstration drew widespread condemnation and resulted in FPI chairman Habib Rizieq being sentenced to 18 months in prison. But rather than seize popular support and take action against FPI, the government simply issued a joint ministerial decree ordering Ahmadiyah restrict its religious activities.
FPI and FUI are known for their fundamentalist views of Islamic teachings, and have been labeled as thugs with little real influence. FPI has been involved in a number of raids on night clubs and bars that sell alcohol, and has also used violence to threaten and intimidate minority groups, such as the destruction of mosques and houses belonging to Ahmadiyah followers.
Sobri said that the 70 former Ahmadiyah followers wished to revert to the true faith.
“We did not force them to exercise Islamic teaching. We will accompany them to go back to the right path,” he said, explaining that they practiced Ahmadiyah teachings without really understanding what they followed.
One of the converts, Etik, 40, from Tejowaringin in Tasikmalaya, West Java, said they returned to Islam “because of our conscience; not because of the FPI.”
Ahmadiyah spokesman Mubarik said it was up to the individuals concerned whether they wanted to change their beliefs as Ahmadiyah did not want to force anybody to follow them if they no longer wished to — just as the Ahmadiyah followers did not want to be forced to change their beliefs.