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Editorial: Turning Blind Eye to Religious Bullies
February 07, 2011
But there are larger issues confronting our government and society in light of these attacks. Do we still respect our laws and the Constitution? Do we protect religious rights? The answers to these fundamental questions will determine what kind of a nation and society we will be in the future. (Antara Photo)
Violence has no place in civilized society. An attack on the Ahmadiyah, a minority Islamic sect, which left at least three people dead and several others seriously injured must be condemned and those responsible must be immediately brought to justice.
The clash in Banten’s Pandeglang district on Sunday is the latest in a series of attacks against the sect. Over the years, the Ahmadis have faced increasing discrimination and prejudice from the government and mainstream Muslims opposed to the sect’s views. The Ahmadiyah followers have been chased away from their homes and mosques by angry mobs on numerous occasions.
Rival groups have long justified these attacks by citing an Indonesia Council of Ulema (MUI) edict which deemed the Ahmadiyah sect as deviant and a 2008 joint ministerial decree which effectively barred the group from worshipping in public and spreading their teachings.
In Sunday’s attack, a group of up to 1,500 angry villagers stormed a man’s home in Pandeglang and demanded that he stop hosting the Ahmadiyah’s activities there, according to news reports.
There is no question that the police must investigate the incident and arrest those who have caused physical harm. Law enforcement agencies have already come under criticism from rights groups for failing to protect the Ahmadis.
But there are larger issues confronting our government and society in light of these attacks. Do we still respect our laws and the Constitution? Do we protect religious rights? The answers to these fundamental questions will determine what kind of a nation and society we will be in the future.
The Ahmadiyah sect poses some complex problems for our society.
Do the followers of the sect have a right to practice their religion freely, despite policies and edicts barring them from doing so? What does the Constitution specifically say about the rights of sects such as the Ahmadiyah?
We have always said that our country’s strength lies in its ability to foster unity in diversity. We have also prized religious harmony as a key part of progress.
The government must therefore resolve religious problems quickly, firmly and fairly. If necessary, cases of religious violence should be brought before the courts.
It is a shame that the government has not dealt with the issue firmly, allowing it to continue unabated.
Sadly, we are bound to see more and more cases of violence and intimidation against religious groups like the beleaguered Ahmadiyah sect. But there must be clear and fair rules on how we must relate with each other in a free society.
Violence should never be part of the equation and should never be tolerated. Religion is an emotive issue but it too must be dealt with in accordance to the law.