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Indonesian mobs step up sectarian violence
Tom Allard INDONESIA CORRESPONDENT
February 9, 2011s
Attack … a YouTube image of one of the men being beaten to death.
THE brutal killing of three followers of the Islamic sect Ahmadiyah by a crazed mob over the weekend and assaults on two Christian churches yesterday have renewed concerns about growing violence against religious minorities in Indonesia and the unwillingness of authorities to contain marauding gangs of Islamist thugs.
Coming as Indonesia celebrates “interfaith harmony week”, the killings and assaults are acutely embarrassing for the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has faced criticism for more than a year for turning a blind eye to rising sectarian attacks, which almost always go unpunished by police.
Late on Monday Dr Yudhoyono expressed his abhorrence at the murders of the three Ahmadis, ordering a police investigation.
Advertisement: Story continues below He expressed regret that authorities were unable to contain the group of more than 1000 people who attacked a house where a group of Ahmadis were staying.
“We cannot tolerate this kind of thing happening again and again,” Dr Yudhoyono told journalists.
The attack in the West Java province of Banten was caught on video. It shows young men beating and stoning the three men to death as they lie near-naked and bloodied.
One police officer tries to stop the mob. Another policeman stands in the background watching impassively.
An Ahmadiyah spokesman, Mubarik Achmand, said police had advance notice of the assault, telling the owner of the house that was attacked, Parman, that he was antagonising his Muslim neighbours and asking him to leave.
“Parman told the police that they must protect him instead of asking him to move out of his birthplace,” Mr Mubarik said. “Parman then told his friends in Jakarta of what happened and two sedans from Jakarta arrived Sunday morning and they rested in Parman’s house. The mob came a few hours later.”
Two people have been detained and 13 others are being questioned.
Violence against Ahmadis, who have lived in Indonesia since 1925, has escalated greatly in the past few years, reaching a high point after the Ministry of Religious Affairs issued a decree in 2008 finding it to be a deviant sect and banning it from proselytising.
Last year the conservative Minister for Religious Affairs, Suryadharma Ali, called for it to be outlawed, citing the country’s blasphemy laws and describing such a measure as an “act of love”.
According to the Setara Institute, which monitors religious violence, there were 15 attacks on Ahmadis in 2008, 33 in 2009 and 50 last year. Last month there were five attacks. Perpetrators have been very rarely brought to justice. Instead, Ahmadis are often asked to move.
The decree is widely seen as encouraging Islamic vigilantes who detest Ahmadiyah beliefs that an Indian preacher, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the second coming of the “messiah” supposedly foreshadowed in the Islamic hadith.
Attacks on Christian churches have also risen greatly in recent years; there were 75 last year. Yesterday a 1500-strong mob burned and ransacked two churches in Temanggung, Central Java, destroying one of them. A nearby school was also reportedly badly damaged.
The militants were angry that a Christian man accused of distributing literature that blasphemed Islam was sentenced to five years’ jail rather than receiving the death penalty.