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August 3, 2010
Ahmadiyah Muslims leave An-Nur Mosque after Friday prayers at Manis Lor village in Kuningan, West Java, Indonesia. Human Rights Watch say the government is failing to protect the sect from radical Islamists. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Indonesia Must End Oppression of Minority Sect: Human Rights Watch
Jakarta. Indonesia is letting radical Islamists trample the constitutional rights of minorities, leading to inter-communal violence, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
The New York-based watchdog called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to repeal laws that it says have given extremists from the dominant religious group the legal space to launch violent attacks on people of other faiths and sects.
“When the Indonesian authorities sacrifice the rights of religious minorities to appease hard-line Islamist groups this simply causes more violence,” the group’s Asia director, Elaine Pearson, said in a statement.
Hundreds of Muslim extremists tried to attack a mosque belonging to the minority Ahmadiyah Islamic sect in Kuningan district of West Java province last week, resulting in clashes with police and the sect’s followers.
A government decree adopted in 2008 under pressure from Islamic conservatives bans the sect from spreading its faith, which includes the belief that its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the final Muslim prophet.
Orthodox Islam holds that Mohammed was the final prophet, leaving the Ahmadis open to charges of heresy and blasphemy which is punishable by up to five years in jail under a controversial 1965 law.
HRW called on the government to rescind such laws and said the failure of the police to arrest a single extremist over repeated attacks on the Ahmadis would only encourage more violence.
“While the police rightly stopped mobs from entering the mosque, their failure to arrest a single person will only embolden these groups to use violence again,” Pearson said.
Indonesia’s constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion and the country of some 240 million people, 80 percent of whom are Muslim, has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
There have been growing calls for Yudhoyono to act against Islamic extremists who regularly attack civil society groups as well as minorities including Christians, “communists” and transvestites.