04/23/2008, 00.00
INDONESIA

Ulema against the government in defence of “heretical’ Ahmadis

Nahdlatul Ulama leaders oppose a draft bill that would outlaw the Ahmadi sect, which does not recognise Muhammad as the last prophet. They also plan to field 20,000 young people to defend Ahmadis from attacks by extremists.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, have expressed their opposition to a government proposal that would ban the Ahmadi sect and said they would protect the group from any abuse. The sect, which recognises Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the last prophet in Islam instead of Muhammad, is considered heretical in many Muslim countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The ulemas, who have gathered at the home of a famous imam, Habib Syarief Utsman Yahya, are providing for the physical protection of the Ahmadi “until the current state of affairs continues,” i.e. as long as there are violent demonstrations by Islamic extremists in Jakarta and Java Province demanding immediate government action against those “who desecrate Muhammad.”

For its part the government has drafted a bill that would outlaw the sect. The proposal, submitted by the Council for the Control of Mystical Religions, is being examined by legal experts within the Interior Affairs Ministry. In the meantime fears about anti-Ahmadi violence are growing.

After the latest ulema meeting, Syarief said: “It is the normal duty of police to protect and defend Indonesian citizens, but given this particular case we are ready to back them with our groups of young people. We can field at least 20,000 young people.”

Nahdlatul Ulama plans setting up self-defence groups around residential areas where Ahmadis live, mainly in Jalaksana and Majalengka, Java Province.

“We must fight this mindset. The government project cannot be accepted because it openly violates freedom of religion which is guaranteed by the constitution,” the Imam Syarief said. “Ahmadis have the same rights before the law as everybody else. If they take action against the government we would support them.”

Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world. Out of a population of 219 million, 87.2 per cent are Muslim; 9 per cent are Christians. Ahmadis are about 0.2 per cent of the total.

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