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‘Bad intentions’ in Ahmadi rebuff of govt meeting: Minister
Ina Parlina and Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Bandung
Rejecting ‘biased dialogue’: Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation chairwoman Erna Ratnaningsih (center) speaks at a press conference in Jakarta on Monday, accompanied by Jamaah Ahmadiyah Indonesia (JAI) spokesperson Jafrullah Ahmad Pontoh (left) and JAI vice president Mirauddin (right). Erna said her clients, Ahmadiyah followers, refused to honor the Religious Affairs Ministry’s invitation to dialogue. JP/Ricky Yudhistira
Jamaah Ahmadiyah Indonesia is refusing to attend a meeting spnsored by the Religious Affairs Ministry scheduled for Tuesday, saying they feared they would be “lynched” at the meeting by other participants.
Erna Ratnaningsih from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), which represents Ahmadiyah congregations across the country, said that her clients refused to have a “biased dialogue”.
“The composition of the parties that will participate in the dialogue is unfair to Ahmadiyah. Many of them are in favor of those who want Ahmadiyah to be disbanded,” Erna told the press on Monday.
“Therefore, we won’t attend the dialogue.”
Erna said at least two-thirds of the total 44 participants attending would be from the Religious Affairs Ministry. Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali has repeatedly expressed support for bylaws banning Ahmadiyah.
The ministry also invited the Islamic People’s Front (FUI), which recently barricaded an Ahmadiyah facility in Yogyakarta, and other Muslim leaders who supported bans on Ahmadiyah. Erna denied accusations that the refusal was an indication that Ahmadiyah was being uncooperative, saying that her clients would only attend a fair dialogue.
“We will attend a dialogue only if it has a fair composition. We want the dialogue to also involve neutral parties,” she said.
She was concerned that the meeting, dubbed by the ministry a “dialogue and opinion sharing” session, would only trick Ahmadiyah into something harmful to themselves.
Nurkholis Hidayat from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH) said that the Ahmadiyah matter was not merely about Islam.
“It’s not about Islam. It has become a matter of the state because Ahmadis are citizens who have the same constitutional right to worship,” he said.
He added that if the government was truly committed to finding a permanent settlement on the matter they must take Ahmadiyah’s constitutional rights into consideration.
He said it would be best not to shift the matter into theological debate through unfair dialogue “because faith is individual territory that cannot be interfered”.
“I’m sure with such composition, the dialogue would only lead to Ahmadiyah dissolution,” he said.
Zafrullah Ahmad Pontoh, a spokesman for Ahmadiyah Indonesia, said the manner in which the Religious Affairs Ministry sent the invitation was suspicious.
“We received the letter on March 18, but it was dated March 16. It was Friday; it means that we had only one working day to prepare for the Tuesday dialogue,” he said. “It’s not fair.”
The ministry’s director general of guidance to the Muslim community, Nasaruddin Umar, said that he regretted Ahmadiyah’s decision not to attend the Tuesday dialogue.
“This will be a good chance for the Ahmadis to present what they called their faith to the state officials.
Show us what we called deviation as something right and not against Islam,” he said. “Deciding not to attend our meeting means they will lose their chance to show it.”
However, he asserted that his office would not impose any sanctions against Ahmadiyah.
“We will still hold the Tuesday dialogue, even without Ahmadiyah,” he said, adding that his office might schedule another dialogue for Ahmadiyah.
Nurkholis said the government’s efforts to hold such dialogue were tardy.
“All this time, local administrations have made unfair policies against Ahmadiyah and the central government did nothing,” he said.
The Legal Aid Institute said it found at least 10 new local bylaws and decrees which ban Ahmadiyah from practicing their faith after a fatal mob attack against Ahmadiyah congregation in Cikeusik village, Banten.
In Bandung, members of FUI successfully persuaded eight Ahmadiyah members to return the Ahmadis — who had been deemed heretical — to the “right path” of Islam by relieving their debt on Monday. Two men, three women and three young girls who were previously members of Ahmadi’s Al-Ukhuwah, returned to Islam, claiming that they wanted a peaceful life.