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Intimidation Picks Up Ahead of Holy Month
Nivell Rayda,Ulma Haryanto & Armando Siahaan | August 06, 2010
Indonesia. As Muslims nationwide count down the days until the start of the holy month of Ramadan, so are followers of Ahmadiyah, but for a very different reason.
Members of the controversial sect are currently living in fear of a repeat attack by hard-liners in the lead-up to Ramadan, one member told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.
“We have received numerous text messages and there are also public statements released by the FPI demanding that we shut down our activities at least two days before Ramadan, or face the consequences,” Firdaus Mubarik said, referring to the Islamic Defenders Front.
“We’re afraid that they’ll launch an attack against Ahmadiyah mosques and members.
“This has occurred before. This happens in every major city across the country. They conduct raids against us and our mosques right before Ramadan each year.”
Ramadan is expected to begin on Wednesday.
Violent scenes erupted last week at Manis Lor village in Kuningan, West Java, when police and public order officers sealed off Ahmadiyah mosques in the area.
The closures, however, were met with resistance from members of the sect, with protesters blocking attempts to shut down the mosques. But a number of hard-line Muslim groups soon flocked to the village and scuffles quickly broke out.
Dedeh, a resident of Manis Lor, said villagers had boarded up their windows to protect them from stones being thrown by protesters.
But according to Dedeh, last week’s clashes were relatively minor compared to the violence experienced there last year and in 2007 because of the issue.
The National Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) alleged that the forcible closure of the Ahmadiyah mosques was the result of political intervention, as it had been ordered by Kuningan district head Aang Hamid Suganda.
According to the official letter ordering the closures, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe, several clerics and Muslim groups had requested the action be taken.
Officials from the Kuningan district administration had met with the clerics on June 1 at Syiarul Islam Mosque in Kuningan, and again on June 14 at the Kuningan branch of Bank Jabar-Banten, the document suggested.
According to Alimah, a researcher from the Fahmina Institute, a religious study group that witnessed last week’s attacks, most of the instigators of the violence were not even locals.
“The residents of Manis Lor themselves were never bothered with the presence of Ahmadiyah in their village,” Alimah told the Globe.
“I saw from the clothes that they were wearing that the attackers were from Gamas [Anti-Sinners Movement] and the FPI. Most came from Cirebon and even Wonosobo in Central Java.”
The hard-liners, Alimah said, carried planks of wood, knives and slingshots.
“They were throwing rocks, targeting not just the mosque but also homes of Ahmadiyah members near the mosque,” she said.
The government in 2008 put limits on Ahmadiyah followers practicing their faith in public, but stopped short of banning the sect that hard-liners deem deviant.
Ahmadiyah recognizes the sect’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a prophet, contradicting orthodox Islamic belief that Muhammad was the last prophet.
Separately, Franz Magnis Suseno, a prominent sociologist and political analyst, said religious institutions might have the right to declare the Ahmadiyah sect as deviant, but its members still deserved to live in peace.
“It’s the government’s utmost responsibility to provide protection to the attacked group,” the Jesuit priest said. “The president and his ministers related to this predicament have so far failed to do their job. The president has been very unclear about this situation. He has no bravery.”
Meanwhile, Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Islamic organization, said extremist groups had misinterpreted the religion.
“People think that these acts are Islamic. They’re not,” he said. “Although their understanding of the matter is wrong, these groups strongly believe that they are right and their religion is the most important one. So they’re willing to die [for their beliefs].”
Said Aqil said NU and 11 other Islamic organizations were determined to fight against grassroots radicalism.
Pressure from hard-line Islamic groups has also been felt in Bekasi, where Mayor Mochtar Mohammad on June 13 signed an agreement with FPI Bekasi frontman Murhali Barda to address four points, including the removal of the “Tiga Mojang” statue, which they deemed offensive, and the closure of the HKBP Pondok Timur Indah Church.
Bekasi administration spokesman Endang Suharyadi confirmed the church closure was part of the June 13 demands.