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Minister’s Call to Outlaw Ahmadiyah Angers Non-Governmental Organizations
Dessy Sagita & Anita Rachman | September 01, 2010
Jakarta. Aghast by Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali’s controversial statements advocating the banning of the Ahmadiyah sect, a number of nongovernmental organizations on Wednesday said they would author a letter of protest asking the minister to clarify his statement.
The Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH) and the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) were reacting to Suryadharma’s statements earlier this week that Ahmadiyah, a controversial Islamic movement, was not Muslim, and therefore saw nothing wrong in declaring that it was time for Ahmadiyah to be banned.
Suryadharma told House of Representatives hearings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that Ahmadiyah must be stopped because it has angered mainstream Muslims in Indonesia.
He said that Ahmadiyah has disrupted interreligious peace, and if their activities were not banned immediately the potential for conflict would escalate.
“Every choice has a consequence, but I think the most suitable choice is to disband Ahmadiyah completely and not to let them do their activities,” the minister said during Tuesday’s hearing.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, Setara deputy chairman, told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday that Suryadharma’s statements could easily be interpreted as a justification for radical Islamic groups to attack Ahmadiyah members and prevent them from practicing their religion.
“Because Suryadharma’s statement was made shortly after National Police Chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri made his statements [on Sunday] that violent mass organizations should not be tolerated, it seems like the Minister is trying to use [Bambang’s statement] for his political maneuver,” he said, explaining that the minister could be trying to paint Ahmadiyah as an organization that also needed to be banned.
Bonar also said that Suryadharma’s stance against Ahmadiyah could trigger suspicions that he was using Bambang’s statement for his party’s gain. Suryadharma is from the United Development Party (PPP), one of the smaller parties in the ruling coalition.
Bonar said the memorandum of protest the organizations would send would ask for clarification as to whether the minister’s statement reflected his own political stance, or represented the policy of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in general.
“We don’t know if the matter regarding Ahmadiyah had been discussed in the cabinet meeting,” he said
“If the Minister’s statement was his personal political stance, he should retract the statement immediately and make a public apology,” he added.
Bonar said that Suryadharma’s claim that he would wait until after Ramadan to make any further comments regarding Ahmadiyah sounded like a threat to sect members.
Suryadharma denied that his statement would encourage radical organizations, like the hard-line Islamic Defender Front (FPI) and the Betawi Community Forum (FBR), to attack Ahmadiyah.
“It’s not a legitimation for anarchy, but there has been a consensus that Ahmadiyah is not allowed to spread its practice because it’s wrong,” he said, adding that Muslims should not tolerate any party that would ruin Islam’s reputation.
A 2008 decree by the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Home Affairs Ministry and the Attorney General’s Office decreed Ahmadiyah a deviant sect.
Though the decree stopped short of banning the sect completely, it banned its members from publicly practicing their faith and spreading their beliefs or proselytizing.
Members of Ahmadiyah, founded in India in 1889, hold that the group’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the last prophet, a belief that contradicts a tenet of Islam that reserves that position for the Prophet Muhammad.
The members of Ahmadiyah are already familiar with violence and attacks against them.
In February 2006, thousands of mainstream Muslims in West Nusa Tenggara burned homes belonging to Ahmadiyah members in Lombok.
The incidents left as many as 137 people homeless, all of whom had to be escorted by police officers to a temporary shelter in Mataram, the provincial capital.
On Aug. 9 this year, some 200 people rallied in front of an Ahmadiyah mosque in Surabaya, demanding the government shut it down.
They ended up vandalizing the mosque by dismantling the signs at its gate.