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Indonesian Clerics Wary of Moves to Ban ‘Deviant Sect’
Nurfika Osman & Candra Malik | September 03, 2010
Jakarta. Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization has warned the government against rushing to outlaw the minority religious sect Ahmadiyah, a day after the proposal sparked a fierce backlash from human rights watchdogs.
Masdar F. Masudi, deputy chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, said disbanding religious groups was a form of violence.
“If we disband Ahmadiyah, we could anger [its] followers. We do not need to rush in dissolving Ahmadiyah, even if [the NU] is in clear dispute with them on Islamic teachings,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.
In House of Representatives hearings earlier this week, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said Ahmadiyah should be banned because it had angered mainstream Muslims.
If their activities are not banned, he said, the potential for conflict would escalate.
Ahmadiyah, founded in India in 1889, holds 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.
Masudi, however, suggested holding a dialogue with the group to clarify issues.
“We have to conduct dakwah [spreading the word of Islam] wisely. And we believe in conducting dialogue with elegance. Remember, the Koran [says] nothing about the forcible conversion to Islam,” he said.
“If, after we have conducted a dialogue with them and they are still steadfast in their beliefs, [we will] leave them alone. The correct way, after all, is already clearly detailed in the Koran.”
Separately, NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj on Wednesday said any plans to ban the controversial Muslim sect must be studied “absolutely seriously.”
“Ahmadiyah has been in Indonesia since 1925. Why is it being made a problem now? This is not a local organization and is present in 102 countries around the globe,” he said.
According to Said, members of Ahmadiyah should be left alone, but should be “[forbidden] to spread their teachings outside.”
“They should be instead led to follow the right path through dialogue,” he said.
The suggestion to ban Ahmadiyah — declared by the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Home Affairs Ministry and the Attorney General’s Office as a deviant sect in a 2008 decree — drew criticism from several nongovernmental organizations.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, said on Wednesday that Suryadharma’s comments could easily be used to justify attacks against Ahmadiyah members by hardline Islamic groups.
Meanwhile, Mohamad Guntur Romli, a noted Muslim intellectual and a graduate of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, said on Thursday that Suryadharma was wrong to suggest banning Ahmadiyah.
“The religious affairs minister should not say things beyond his capacity that rile up the atmosphere,” he said.
“So far, the members of Ahmadiyah have never made problems for Indonesia. They do not undermine the authority of government, or attempt to conduct treason.”
Guntur agreed with the NU’s stance in calling for a peaceful resolution to the issue.
“From the time of [NU’s founder] Hadratus Shaikh Hasyim Asyari to [former President] Abdurrahman Wahid, the NU’s stance has been very clear: defend Ahmadiya’s right to live in accordance with their constitutional rights as Indonesians.”