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Rights groups condemn local bans on Ahmadiyah
Ina Parlina, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Groups condemned bans issued by local administrations on the followers of Ahmadiyah following a fatal mob attack in Cikeusik village, Banten.
The chairwoman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Erna Ratnaningsih, said such policies would only erode the country’s diversity and violated the Constitution.
“Such policies violate people’s right to worship as stipulated by the Constitution,” she told The Jakarta Post via telephone Sunday.
She added that the ban was justification for and a tool of violence against religious minorities.
Ahmadiyah teachings are considered heretical and blasphemous against Islam by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI). Followers of the faith have been a target of mob attacks in recent years.
The latest incident in Cikeusik village in which three Ahmadis were murdered, raised public calls for the government to find a solution.
Saying it would prevent violence, several local administrations enacted bylaws prohibiting Ahmadis from practicing their faith.
A week after the Pandeglang administration banned Ahmadiyah activities, the Samarinda administration issued an order to seal off Ahmadiyah houses of worship and halt religious activities.
The YLBHI identified at least three similar discriminative regulations long imposed in Bogor and Kuningan, West Java, and in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.
Erna said she was concerned discrimination and violence were most likely to spread throughout the country if the central government left the policies unchecked.
“These policies set the stage for intolerance at the grass-roots level.”
Ridha Saleh from the National Commission for Human Rights shared Erna’s concerns, saying local administrations could not subjectively impose certain rulings to control people’s religious lives “because it does not only violate the Constitution, but also usurps the authority of the central government.
“Regulating such religious matters lies in the hands of the central government,” he told the Post.
Erna said the enactment of the local policies violated the 2004 Regional Autonomy Law because local regulations must be issued based on a higher law.
“In this case, local administrations violated the regional autonomy law, which stipulates that religion is one of five issues that are overseen by the central government,” she said, adding that many of those regulations were based on the wrong foundation: the intolerant fatwa (decree) of the MUI.
“I doubt the deliberations for these local regulations received public participation, as is required,” Erna said. “Ahmadiyah spokesman Ahmad Mubarik once told me these local administrations never sought their opinions.”
Both Erna and Ridha called on local administrations to revoke the policies. Ridha urged local governments not to jump the gun by issuing such regulations, but to let the central government solve the “problem” with Ahmadiyah.
The central government has not addressed the issue beyond reviewing a controversial 2008 joint ministerial decree on Ahmadiyah, which critics say is often used to justify violence against the religious sect.
“Such rushed decisions that eventually result in intolerant policies may be used by hard-line groups to mete out violence against Ahmadiyah,” Ridha said, adding that such regulations were prone to abuse and misinterpretation.