06/09/2008, 00.00
INDONESIA

Indonesia to ban Ahmadi activities

by Benteng Reges
Government gives in to pressures by Muslim radicals against “heretical” sect. Members of the small community protest, saying that the state should not interfere in matters of faith. Unsatisfied Muslim extremists threatened President Susilo if he does not act more forcefully against the “heretics.”

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesia gives in to fundamentalist pressures and bans all activities by Ahmadis across the country. Extremists won their battle against those whom they consider a “heretical sect” and its members’ demand to be recognised as Muslim. Interior Minister Mardiyanto, Attorney General Henderman Supandji and Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni approved the joint ministerial decree that forces Ahmadis to halt all their activities.

A heated debate had broken out in recent days. Tensions ran so high that partisans of radical and moderate factions in Indonesian Islam clashed. Today another demonstration by extremists took place with protesters calling for the outright ban of the sect.

According to Muslim extremists, Ahmadis have deviated from mainstream Islam because, even though they consider themselves Muslims, they do not recognise Muhammad as the last prophet. For this reason they are also persecuted in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

“The most important thing is to end this religious campaign to have Ghulam proclaimed as a prophet,” said Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni. Such recognition would defile Islam’s purity.

Both he and Attorney General Supandji have denied claims that the measure is intended to wipe out the Ahmadis; the two ministers reject all charges that the ban is a violation of religious freedom.

The government’s decision has provoked criticism from members of the Ahmadi community. Across Indonesia hundreds of them have pledged to continue their campaign, saying that the “state has no right to interfere in matters that touch upon citizens’ faith and beliefs.”

Some hard-line Muslim groups have also attacked the government’s action, calling instead for a presidential decree that would impose a total ban on the sect.

“If President Susilo does not act in this direction, we shall organise new, bigger protests to force him to resign,” threatened the chairman of the Islamic Society Forum.

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