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August 1, 2010
Politics Seen in Ahmadiyah Violence
Kuningan, West Java. The forcible closure of Ahmadiyah mosques, which led to rioting in Manis Lor village in Kuningan, West Java, was most likely fueled by the political desires of district head Aang Hamid Suganda, an official from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence alleged on Sunday.
“We found a fact [regarding Aang’s political designs]. We need to confirm it, but we believe it to be true,” said Sinung Karto, a member of the commission also known as Kontras.
“After two years of peace, anarchy occurred last Thursday.
This was triggered by instructions issued by the district head to seal off Ahmadiyah mosques,” he said, adding that the commission had undertaken two days of intensive research and investigations at the scene of the violence.
Sinung said that Aang had promised to close the mosques during his campaign for the 2008 district head election, in which he won a second term.
Aang’s term ends in 2013, and even though he cannot run for a third term, he is believed to be preparing the way for his wife, Utje Ch, to succeed him.
Closing down the Ahmadiyah mosques, Sinung suggested, was an effort by Aang to achieve this by courting public support.
Indra Listiantara, from the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, said that having investigated the case, Setara had come to the preliminary conclusion that Aang had ordered the mosques closed for political reasons.
“We suspect that once his term as Kuningan district head ends, Aang will run in the West Java gubernatorial election,” Indra said.
“He wants to keep his support base intact, and gaining political support from Muslim hard-liners by openly opposing and taking action against Ahmadiyah is key to that.”
Both Indra and Sinung have called on the police to take action and investigate the mosque closures and subsequent violence.
“Even though the police were a little slow in preventing what transpired on Thursday, we have to give them credit for stopping the scuffles from degenerating into a full-blown riot,” Indra said. “They should, however, find the person responsible for the incident.”
Police officers, acting on orders from Aang, on Thursday sealed off Ahmadiyah mosques in Manis Lor after having failed to do so on Monday due to resistance from the group’s members.
But as the protesters blocked police attempts to shut down their mosques, groups of hard-line Muslims flocked to the village and scuffles broke out.
Amid pressure from Muslim groups, the government in 2008 prohibited members of Ahmadiyah from practicing their faith in public or proselytizing, but stopped short of banning the sect.
Many mainstream Muslims consider Ahmadiyah deviant because its members recognize the sect’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a prophet.
Kuningan Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Yoyoh Indayah confirmed that Aang issued an official letter last Thursday to seal off the mosques, “based on the demands of a certain Islamic group.”
“I do not want to speculate about what was behind the letter or those demands. I don’t know about political motivations,” Yoyoh told the Jakarta Globe.
“Nobody was arrested because I prefer to [keep the peace]. Those who sealed off the mosques, by the way, were not locals. They were from Tasikmalaya, Sumedang and Ciamis.”
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) said that if the government did not take action against the hard-liners, it was in effect endorsing further violence.
“We believe that violence against minority religious groups will continue if the government does not do anything,” Erna Ratnaningsih, from the YLBHI, said on Saturday.
Ifdal Kasim, from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said he regretted a recent statement by Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, in which he declared Ahmadiyah haram, or forbidden.
“The government must admit to the existence of Ahmadiyah in Indonesia. It is the government’s job to allow the Ahmadis to hold their prayer services,” Ifdal said, a day after Suryadharma declared Ahmadiyah was haram because it was a misguided sect that did not consider Muhammad to be the last prophet.
Suryadharma urged police to take action against Ahmadis found spreading their teachings, even as he warned residents in Kuningan not to take the law into their own hands.
Hasyim Muzadi, who formerly led Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, also said that even if Ahmadis veered away from mainstream Islamic teachings, Indonesians must not take the law into their own hands.
“Violence will cause those ideologies to turn even more militant, because they are pressured through physical means,” Hasyim said.