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Looking the Other Way When It Comes to Indonesia’s Ahmadis
Firdaus Mubarik | November 21, 2010
On Oct. 1 in Bogor, an Ahmadiyah mosque and 28 houses were destroyed, looted and burned. Fifty Korans were burned during the assault on Cisalada village, home to 600 people. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono scarcely reacted. It was a far cry from several months earlier, when an American pastor made plans to burn the Koran in Florida and Yudhoyono immediately wrote to US President Barack Obama and held a press conference to protest the action.
The problem is that the government never seriously prosecutes perpetrators of violence against the Ahmadiyah.
In one case in 2002, more than 300 Ahmadis fled their homes in East Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, when their homes were burned down.
The community was taken to Mataram, where they were attacked again in 2006.
On Friday, 50 followers of the sect were chased out of their homes. Now they live in a barracks, denied the right to return home.
Half a million of other Ahmadis in Indonesia live in fear. Attacks by Islamic extremists continue anywhere there are Ahmadis in Indonesia.
In West Java, violence has erupted in several districts: Bogor, Cianjur, Sukabumi, Garut, Tasikmalaya, Ciamis and Kuningan.
The same has occurred in Sumatra, Sulawesi, Maluku and Kalimantan.
In fact, there is no safe place for Ahmadis to worship in Indonesia. Freedom of religion in this country is increasingly threatened.
To legitimize their actions, attackers cite an Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) fatwa — promulgated in 1980 and strengthened in 2005 — which declared Ahmadiyah heretical and dangerous.
In Banjar, West Java, Sobri Lubis, one of the leaders of the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) openly invites his people to kill followers of Ahmadiyah.
Police do nothing in response, just as they have done next to nothing about extremist action against Ahmadis elsewhere in the country.
In the 2006 Lombok case, police freed the people suspected of torching homes of the displaced Ahmadis.
In Bogor in September 2005, Encep Hernawan made the bold statement that he and his organization Gerakan Islam Reformis (Garis) were responsible for an attack on four mosques and 43 homes belonging to the Ahmadiyah community in Cianjur.
The act went unpunished.
In some cases, local governments facilitate the attackers and position the Ahmadis — who, under the Constitution, should be protected — as the cause of the problem.
They also sometimes legitimize acts of violence.
In Bogor, Garut, Tasikmalaya and Kuningan, local governments issued decrees banning Ahmadiyah, often including the MUI fatwas of 1980 and 2005 in their laws.
Religious Affairs Minister Surya Dharma Ali this year campaigned against Ahmadiyah, repeatedly saying that it was not part of Islam and he would ban the sect.
This policy follows similar action in Pakistan in 1974, when that country’s Constitution was amended to explicitly declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim minorities.
Rather than solve the problem, these actions have triggered a rise in attacks, arrests and killings of Ahmadiyah followers.
In recent times 86 Ahmadis died and more than 120 were injured in attack during Friday prayers at an Ahmadiyah mosque in Lahore.
Indonesia in 2005 ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Under the 1945 Constitution, the government should protect the freedom of religious choice and association.
But in fact a 1965 ordinance allows the government to prohibit a particular religion or faith.
This law also underlies a 2008 joint decree that prohibits the spread of Ahmadiyah teachings — said to be contrary to the majority’s understanding of Islam.
A report by the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace shows the violence continues to increase. In 2009, there were 33 cases of violence against Ahmadis — up from 15 in 2007.
A National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) team in 2006 thoroughly investigated the violence against Ahmadis on Lombok and in Kuningan.
It spoke of human rights violations, but unfortunately the team’s recommendations were not followed up by commission members.
There has been some progress, though.
This month police stopped 300 FPI members from attacking an Ahmadiyah mosque in Ciamis, West Java.
This strong action from the police clearly shows that the government has the ability and power to stop violence.
The government must revoke all ordinances and regulations that restrict the freedom of religion and worship and take decisive steps to ensure the safety of the Ahmadis.
People involved in violent acts against the community should be arrested and prosecuted.
Consistent, firm government action is the only way to stop the violence faced by minorities like the Ahmadis.
Firdaus Mubarik is a member of the Ahmadiyah community in Kebayoran, South Jakarta.