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Blasphemy Law Review Demanded Amid Strife
Dessy Sagita & Camelia Pasandaran | February 21, 2011
Police officers inspecting the damaged house of an Ahmadi after it was attacked by a Muslim mob in Pandeglang, Banten, earlier this month. (AP Photo)
Two weeks after a deadly attack on Ahmadiyah followers in Banten, the Indonesian Council of Ulema has called on the government to investigate cases of religious violence.
The group, known as the MUI, also defended itself against critics who say its edict denouncing Ahmadiyah has contributed to the violence against the minority sect.
“There’s not one religion in this world that teaches violence,” Amidhan, chairman of the MUI, said on Sunday.
He said many people had misunderstood the council’s 2005 fatwa labeling Ahmadiyah a deviant Muslim sect and its followers as apostates.
“Indeed, point No. 1 of that edict calls for a ban on Ahmadiyah,” he said, “but point No. 3 clearly states that any violence against Ahmadiyah followers is strictly prohibited.”
He said the misinterpretation had damaged the MUI’s reputation, making it a target for critics who claim the organization has incited hatred and encouraged attacks on the sect.
“No belief, whether it is heretical or not, deserves to be treated violently, and we are fully aware of that fact,” he said. “Therefore, I don’t understand why the MUI is linked to these violent acts.”
On Friday, hard-line Muslim groups rallied in Jakarta to demand the government disband Ahmadiyah. The chairman of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Habib Riziq, said that “Ahmadiyah must not exist in Indonesia” and should be dismantled at all costs.
He warned of a revolution if the president failed to disband the sect, going as far as to call for the government to be toppled.
Amidhan dismissed such threats and said the Feb. 6 attack in Banten, which left three Ahmadis dead, and the government’s response, had led some groups to believe they were above the law. He urged the government to punish those responsible.
“The government and the police need to act fast to find the real culprits and provocateurs behind the incident . They must investigate both the attackers and the Ahmadiyah members who were at the scene,” he said, adding that the only way to properly resolve the issue was through the courts.
Meanwhile, in response to an outpouring of criticism over its slow response to a spate of attacks on minority groups, the government plans to revise the Law on Mass Organizations to make it easier to disband groups that advocate violence.
Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said the revision would be part of this year’s national legislative program.
“The new law is expected to be more strict and shorten the time it takes to disband an organization,” he told the Jakarta Globe in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, on Saturday.
The law currently requires a lengthy process of collecting evidence of illegal behavior, followed by a freezing of the organization, before it can be disbanded.
Gamawan said the law made it difficult to disband organizations, even ones like the FPI that have openly called for revolution.
“We need evidence, because if we did it without evidence, the government would be accused of breaking the law,” he said.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Feb. 9, three days after the Banten attack, called for organizations that advocate violence to be shut down.