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Ministers Back Moves to Tighten Grip on Ahmadiyah
Camelia Pasandaran, Ulma Haryanto & Ronna Nirmala | March 02, 2011
At the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, supporters of the Islamic People’s Forum (FPI) united behind the slogan ‘Ban Ahmadiyah or [Face a] Revolution’. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)
As thousands of hard-liners gathered at Jakarta’s Hotel Indonesia traffic circle demanding the immediate disbandment of the Ahmadiyah, the Indonesian government voiced its support of moves adopted by a string of local administrations aimed at further restricting the sect’s activities.
“It is the authority of the regional head [to issue decrees on Ahmadis],” Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar said on Tuesday at the Presidential Palace. “Ahmadis insist on violating the law by spreading their beliefs. Religious freedom should not be translated into desecration of religion.”
Ahmadiyah, a minority Islamic sect, has long been at the center of a dispute between human rights activists that support its existence and Islamic hard-liners that want it disbanded.
Thousands of demonstrators from the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) – including those supporting the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) – rallied toward the National Monument Square, with many in the crowds vowing they would continue to demonstrate until they see Ahmadiyah banned entirely.
The government in 2008 issued a joint ministerial decree banning the sect from practicing its religion openly and spreading its beliefs.
Muhammad Noval, a member of the Islamic Anti-Apostasy Peace Alliance, or Ada Api, said they now had an appropriate word to describe President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“SBY is an Ahmadi. If you see what he has done in regard to protecting the Ahmadiyah, what other word would be better to describe him than Ahmadi?” he said. “If he [Yudhoyono] does not like to be referred to as an Ahmadi, then he should issue a decree banning them!”
Separately, Julia Satari, a leader from the youth organization Pemuda Pancasila, said she wanted to offer her condolences to Yudhoyono, because in her assessment he was too lazy to resolve the issue of the Ahmadiyah.
“Ahmadis absolutely disturb the comfortable existence of Islamic worshipping. They [Ahmadiyah] are illegal according to the Constitution.”
Among the demonstrators was 7-year-old Rizdian Rangga, carrying an FPI flag. Rizdian told the Jakarta Globe he had skipped school for the massive rally. When asked why, Rizdian said: “To follow my father, and to disband the Ahmadiyah.”
FPI leader Habib Rizieq, who led the rally, condemned local media as being a tool of international Zionist groups.
Along with at least 10 other representatives from the demonstrators, Rizieq was eventually received at the Presidential Palace to discuss the demands of the protesters.
Muhammad Al-Khaththath, secretary general of the FUI, said that in the meeting with a delegation from the palace, which he said included ministers, he had told the government the “real story” about the Ahmadis.
“I saw them slightly shocked when they heard the truth about the Ahmadiyah. The Ahmadis are fakers of religion and troublemakers, I told them. It opened their eyes and hearts,” Al-Khaththath said, adding that he was certain that a presidential decree would soon be issued in regard to the Ahmadis.
Rizieq, however, said: “Our president is, after all, a politician. We should know that a politician’s promise is rarely proven.”
The governor of East Java, Soekarwo, recently issued a decree banning the sect from spreading its beliefs through any media and forbidding the display of its name in public, including signposts on mosques.
Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said he believed Soekarwo’s decree had been issued in total support of the 2008 joint ministerial decree.
“The regulation issued by the East Java administration should do an even better job in enforcing the SKB [the 2008 joint ministerial decree]. The governor [Soekarwo] obviously believes that a gubernatorial regulation needs to be issued for better supervision [of enforcement of the decree].”
Gamawan said that organizations demanding the disbandment of the Ahmadiyah were backed by proof that the Ahmadis had indeed violated the primary points of the decree — spreading their beliefs.
He said they had done so by putting up signs and placards citing the name Ahmadiyah in public, on top of mosques, prayer halls, educational institutions and other structures.
The minister also accused Ahmadis of wearing attributes of their organization, the Jamaah Ahmadiyah Indonesia, on their body.
The East Java governor on Tuesday said he would not have any problems with JAI board members or followers launching a legal case against his anti-Ahmadiyah decree.
“It is better that they take legal action, rather then start demonstrating, or even trigger anarchic actions,” Soekarwo said.
“We are a country that follows the law.”
Additional reporting by Antara.