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Indonesian Ahmadiyah Members Mark Fifth Ramadan in Limbo
Tangguh | August 08, 2010
Ahmadiyah members, whose homes were razed by angry villagers in 2006, at the Transito temporary camp in Mataram. JG Photo/Tangguh
Lombok. For four years and five months, 33 Ahmadiyah families have been staying at the Transito shelter in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, after having been driven from their homes.
The families ended up here in February 2006 after their neighbors in Lingsar Barat village, West Lombok district, turned on them during the height of the anti-Ahmadiyah sentiment that was sweeping the country at the time. The families’ homes were razed.
Most mainstream Muslims oppose the Ahmadiyah sect because its members believe that its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet.
“We just want to go back home,” a spokesman for the group, Dzulkhair Mujip, tells the Jakarta Globe. “No matter how nice a place is, it’s still not home.”
The group has several times announced its plan to return to its home village. Each time, it has been stayed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the police, who claim such a move would threaten the peace that the families’ expulsion has brought to their village.
Like other Indonesian Muslims, these Ahmadiyah members are looking forward to Ramadan, which begins on Wednesday.
Unlike most Muslims, however, the 137 people here will be forced to spend the holy month at this “temporary” refuge for a fifth straight year.
Despite everything, Dzulkhair says, the Ahmadiyah will not let the situation sully their Ramadan, which they cherish as a chance to get closer to God.
There is not much they can do to prepare, he points out, except figure out how to accommodate everyone in the tiny local mosque for the obligatory evening prayers during the holy month.
The group has also been without electricity for the past six months after failing to pay the bill for the shelter, which the government is supposed to be managing for them.
Dzulkhair says that during the refugees’ stay in Mataram, they have been treated as second-class citizens. They are denied ID cards that are obligatory for all Indonesian citizens.
“None of us here has a driver’s license, because to get one you have to have an ID card, which we don’t have,” Dzulkhair says.
He adds that this problem extends to other civic documents, such as marriage licenses and birth certificates.
Couples from the community who want to marry must do so without official state permission, which several Islamic organizations frown upon. This perpetuates a vicious circle of animosity directed at the Ahmadiyah members.
For the first two years of their stay in Mataram, the group members received a stipend of rice and cash from the Social Welfare Ministry. However, that aid dried up in mid-2008 when the ministry said they were no longer eligible for it, without explaining why.
Dzulkhair says he and several other Ahmadiyah representatives have repeatedly tried to get the West Lombok administration to clarify their legal status, but to no avail.
“The regional administration keeps telling us to take it up with the provincial government, and the provincial administration passes us back off to the West Lombok administration,” he says.
“We’re being tossed around like a bunch of playthings, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Dzulkhair also tells of persistent threats group members have received from local Islamic hard-liners, although the shows of aggression are not as vicious or public as they used to be.
Yet Dzulkhair adds that despite these challenges, the group is still trying to lead a normal life.
Most of the adults are employed as manual laborers, farmhands and vendors — anything that helps put food on the table and keeps the children in school, Dzulkhair says.
Hafiz Kidratullah, 12, says he had to repeat a whole year at school because of the disruption to his studies caused by the move to the Mataram shelter.
His father, Hairuddin, ekes out a living selling plastic bags at a local market.
Another parent, Yunus, says he sells tapes at Mataram’s Pangesangan Market. He makes around Rp 30,000 ($3) a day.
“At least I have a job, that’s what really matters,” he says.
What these Ahmadiyah members want more than ever, Dzulkhair and the others say, is for the government to tell them where they stand, especially in relation to their home village.
The Ahmadiyah members say they are willing to make a permanent home at the Transito shelter, but only if the government allows them basic civic rights like the right to get an ID card, Dzulkhair says.
He adds the group has lost all faith in the district and provincial administrations, and has now pinned all its hopes on the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“Our last hope is the central government, is the president himself,” he says.
“Hopefully amid his important duties managing the nation’s problems, he can spare a thought for us out here in Transito.”