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Intolerance Stretches to Indonesia’s Children
Nivell Rayda | December 09, 2010
The Khasanah Kautsar orphanage in Tasikmalaya, West Java, has been sealed off by the government. (JG Photo/Nivell Rayda)
Tasikmalaya, West Java. Amar Ahmad, 15, was supposed to be taking his end of term exams on Thursday morning.
Instead, he and nine other boys spent the day trapped inside their orphanage, which was forcefully closed the day before.
The Khasanah Kautsar orphanage, built by a local Ahmadiyah community, was locked from the outside by officials from the Tasikmalaya prosecutor’s office on Wednesday, amid growing pressure from hard-line Muslim groups for the facility to disband.
It remained locked on Thursday.
Syihab Ahmad, a teacher at the orphanage, which doubles as a religious school, told the Jakarta Globe inside the locked facility that the school only gave instruction in the teachings of the sect’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
The boys normally pursue their formal education elsewhere, but with the closure, they are unable to do that.
“We are not allowed to leave this orphanage. I also fear for the boys’ safety at their schools,” Syihab said.
“When the situation cools down, I will try to lobby the schools. Hopefully they can still take the final exams.”
The teacher said at least five officials from the prosecutor’s office came to the orphanage, situated in the outskirts of Tasikmalaya city, at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, saying that the facility was due for closure.
“I asked [the officials] for the supporting documents. They couldn’t show them to me. I then asked them what we were doing wrong and they only said, ‘Either we close it or the FPI will close it,’?” he said, referring to the hard-line Islamic Defenders’ Front.
The prosecutors eventually locked the gate with their own lock.
Amar recounted that after the officials had left, at least 30 people visited the orphanage.
“They shouted, ‘Get out you infidels,’ and some of them yelled, ‘Burn… burn… burn,’?” he said. “It was intense. We all feared for our lives.”
After rallying for one hour, the protestors disbanded under a sudden rain while police officers guarding the facility watched.
Kawalu Police told the Globe on Wednesday that a demonstration by several hard-line Islamic groups, including the FPI and the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis), was to take place there on Thursday.
No FPI demonstrations were visible on Thursday when the Globe visited the orphanage.
Mainstream Muslim groups accuse Ahmadiyah of professing its founder, Mirza, as a prophet, which runs directly against a tenet of Islam identifying Muhammad as the final prophet. The Ahmadiyah argue that Mirza was merely a reformer of Islam.
Budi Badrussalam, chairman of the Tasikmalaya Ahmadiyah Youth Alliance, said members of the sect constantly receive intimidations which are rarely prosecuted by law enforcement in the district.
As recently as June this year, people have thrown rocks and bottles at the orphanage. “The odd thing is, the people that had been intimidating us are not even from around this area,” Budi told the Globe.
The orphanage was founded in 2000 with the donation of private members from the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation. In 2004, the facility received an influx of orphans after an Ahmadiyah community in West Nusa Tenggara was burned.
“At one point there were as many as 48 boys living in the orphanage. But after a string of attacks on the facility… now there are only 10,” Iyon Sofyan, an Ahmadiyah community elder in Tasikmalaya, told the Globe.
“We won’t leave this place. If we go out, then the mob would definitely burn it to the ground. Where would the kids go?”