07/23/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Indonesia: Muslims in defence of persecuted Ahmadis

Islamic scholars urge the Ulema Council to revoke a "counterproductive" edict which brands this Muslim community as "heretical".

Jakarta (AsiaNews/JP) – Exponents of the Muslim community in Indonesia have taken the side of Ahmadis, a Muslim group branded as heretical and targeted in violence by orthodox Islamists.

Noted Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra yesterday called on the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to lift an edict issued more than 20 years ago declaring the Ahmadiyah teachings as heresy, saying the edict was counterproductive. Azyumardi, the rector of Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University (UIN) in Jakarta, suggested the MUI invite Ahmadiyah followers to a dialogue rather than persecute them. The scholar said this yesterday at the Europa-Asia Forum for inter-religious dialogue in Denpasar, Bali.

The memory of latest violence against this religious minority is still raw. On 15 July, around 10,000 members of the extremist Indonesian Muslim Security group attacked a building of the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation in Bogor, West Java. Following the aggression, local authorities forced around 500 JAI members to leave the building where they were meeting. On 20 July, the local authorities ordered the suspension of all activities conducted by JAI. A spokesperson for Bogor regency said its religious affairs office, together with the Ulema Council, was drawing up guidelines for Ahmadiyah followers.

In 1980, the Indonesian Ulema Council issued an edit forbidding the Ahmadiyah teaching, guilty of not recognizing Mohammed as the last Prophet. The community, born in Pakistan, calls itself Muslim and it suffers persecution at the hands of integralists especially in Pakistan and Bangladesh. So far, police have not arrested a single person for such aggression.

Azyumardi said: "I think the edict needs to be reviewed, also by discussing with the Ahmadis to listen to what they have to say and to try to understand if their positions have changed." The scholar also criticised the government for not having reacted against perpetrators of the 15 July aggression: "The state, represented by the government, must not tolerate people who take the law into their own hands and force their will on others in the name of religion."

Azyumardi concluded by saying: "If the state does not protect its citizens without distinction, anarchy will prevail; it has the duty to assure that all are free to practise their faith as stipulated by the Constitution."

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