Disbanding Ahmadiyah costs the freedom of the nation
Al Makin, Yogyakarta
By the end of Ramadan, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali promised to bestow a “controversial gift” on Indonesians, a gift that would displease proponents of tolerance, peace and common sense.
That is, after Idul Fitri he will take serious steps to disband Ahmadiyah. The arguments supporting his statement sound obsolete and unfounded. That is, the group violated a 2008 joint ministerial decree and the outdated 1965 anti-blasphemy law. The public knows where these “weak laws” lead us.
As a politician of the United Development Party (PPP) and a former cooperatives and small and medium enterprises minister, Suryadharma Ali’s maneuver is not mindless. Genuine motivations behind his effort should be explained.
However, as he will unlikely explain what has really provoked him to lash out at the religious minority, we can only guess.
Take a political drive as the first clue to this puzzle.
As a politician, he needs popularity to enhance the number of voters for his party. To become the center of the media’s attention is of great benefit to him. He is now popular. As soon as you type his name into Google, his statement about disbanding Ahmadiyah will appear in various online publications.
As a party that targets conservative voters, the PPP, which was established in the early years of Soeharto’s government, faces the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) as a serious competitor in the political race.
However, the PKS is seemingly building its image as an “open political party” that “makes room” for the values of pluralism and nationalism. This party has seemed to have learned the lesson that Indonesians are not fond of leaning too far to the right. PKS leaders want to swing the party to the middle, at least in the eyes of the public.
The gambit sounds tactical. The PKS also deserves credit, for educating conservative stakeholders to accept the fact that the party needs to increase the number of voters, regardless of their beliefs and ideologies. Politics is about the voters, in front of whom your principles should be disguised.
However, the strategy also yields risks. Indonesian voters with nationalist sentiments may look at the PKS’ move with a measure of skepticism, while loyal voters with conservative and radical minds may leave the party, seeing that the party has betrayed their original ideology.
The PPP, which wants to construct itself as an icon of conservatism, has seized on an opportunity. The Ahmadiyah issue has been chosen to attract potential conservative and radical voters.
If this is the case, short-term political gain has won out over long-term national interest.
Iskandar Zulkarnain, a scholar on Ahmadiyah, wrote that the Islamic sect’s contributions to this country and Indonesian Muslims since even before independence, such as translating the Koran into Javanese and other intellectual endeavors, cannot be belittled. Amien Rais also held Ahmadiyah’s achievements in the world, such as promoting intellectual Islam in Europe, in high regard.
What is obvious is that in the soil of Indonesia, Ahmadiyah has stood for much longer than those who want to eradicate it. Ahmadiyah — like NU (Nahdlatul Ulama), Muhammadiyah, the PGI, Kawali, Parisada Hindu Dharma, and other religious groups that have colored the Indonesian canvas with diversity — has contributed to this country much more than those who want to annihilate it.
Ahmadiyah is part of Indonesia. If its members are not allowed to live in this country, which they love as much as we do, where should they go? Should we just throw them into ocean? Or expel them?
There are rows and rows of Indonesian leaders and intellectuals who will side with the “oppressed” Ahmadiyah, as they know that banning Ahmadiyah comes at the cost of the freedom of all Indonesian people.
If Ahmadiyah is disbanded because its teachings are different from Indonesian Shafi’ite Sunni majority, there are more sects and Islamic groups on the list, including Indonesian Hanbalite Sunni, Hanafite Sunni, Shiite, Tarekat groups (e.g. Naqshabandiyah, Satiriyah, Jalaluddin Rumi groups), numerous Islamic local variants, and so on.
Next, if you follow a religion that is different from those the Religious Affairs Ministry officially acknowledges, be ready to be banned. The same warning rings true for those who embrace different faiths.
Simply put, our fate and freedom is now attached to that of Ahmadiyah. To allow Ahmadiyah to be disbanded means to let us follow the same fate. Here, in Indonesia, we persecute our own brother Muslims.
Let us consult to the speech delivered by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at Harvard University, in which he challenged Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations”. Agreed Mr. President! Now a question please. What about clashes among Indonesians?
The writer is a lecturer at the State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga.