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Indonesian President Urged to Take Minister to Task Over Ahmadiyah
Armando Siahaan | November 05, 2010
Jakarta. The religious affairs minister has once again come under fire after an international human rights group called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to repudiate the minister’s stance against the Ahmadiyah.
In an open letter to the president, New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Suryadharma Ali of actively promoting discrimination against the minority Islamic sect.
“President Yudhoyono should order Minister Suryadharma to stop playing with fire with his demands to ban the Ahmadiyah,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy director for Asia.
“Formalizing religious discrimination increases the vulnerability of Ahmadiyah and opens the door for further attacks and wider communal violence. This is hardly the recipe for promoting Indonesia as a modern, rights-respecting state.”
Suryadharma has been heavily criticized for his repeated calls for the sect to be banned and his unwillingness to revoke a 2006 joint ministerial decree that makes it difficult for minority religions to build houses of worship.?
In September, the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Pramono Anung, from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), lambasted Suryadharma for his inability to separate his roles as a minister and as the chairman of the United Development Party (PPP), the second-largest Islamic party in the country.
Pramono said some of Suryadharma’s decisions on religious issues had been heavily influenced by his political background.
“A religious affairs minister should protect all religious groups. Not just his group or his religion,” he said.?
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said it was “obvious” Suryadharma was abusing his position to push his own political agenda.??
Ulil Abshar Abdalla, a Democratic Party politician and founder of the Liberal Islam Network, has also chastised Suryadharma for his failure to stand up to those who preached hatred, going as far as saying the minister had adopted an approach that fostered radicalism.
In its letter, HRW questioned why Yudhoyono had not taken action against his minister, which had lead many to believe that he supported such intolerance.
“President Yudhoyono gave a nationwide speech about religious tolerance in the United States, but what will he tell visiting US President Barack Obama about the burned Ahmadiyah mosques in Indonesia?” Robertson said.?
“Yudhoyono should take clear steps to protect religious freedom, starting with loudly rejecting any ban on the Ahmadis, and ensuring that those responsible for attacks on Ahmadiyah homes and mosques are prosecuted.”
Nasaruddin Umar, a director for Islamic affairs at the Religious Affairs Ministry, said that it could not comment on the issue before studying HRW’s letter comprehensively.