Moderate Muslims and human rights activists defend Ahmadis
by Mathias Hariyadi
Some Indonesian provinces ban “heretical” sect. East and West Java are followed by East Borneo, West Jakarta and South Sulawesi. The Nahdlatul Ulama defends Ahmadis, saying that doctrinal deviations are no justification for violence.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest moderate Muslim organisation, and various Indonesian human rights organisations have launched a campaign of solidarity in favour of Ahmadi Muslims.

In some provinces, the group has been banned, its members the object of violence and, in some cases, targeted for assassination. If they have not colluded with attackers, government and police authorities have at least failed to protect the members of the sect, seen by large segments of Indonesian society as a “public enemy”. Given the situation, moderate Indonesians have decided to offer help and support to counter the stream of abuses and violence.

In recent days, a number of regencies (districts) like Samarinda in East Borneo Province, Bogor in West Jakarta, and others in South Sulawesi Province, have banned the sect.

For many ordinary people in predominantly Muslim countries, Pakistan for example, Ahmadis are heretics because they do not consider Muhammad as the final prophet.

In East and West Java, provincial authorities have already banned Ahmadis from praying in mosques and public places.

Some 200,000 Ahmadis live in Indonesia, often in dangerous conditions, victims of persecution, attacks and murder, by people who are sometimes backed by the law.

For example, police filed a case against Deden, an Ahmadi man, on suspicion that he was involved in recent violence in Cikeusik, when a mob of thousands of extremists attacked an Ahmadi community, killing three. In this case, instead of investigating the perpetrators of violence, prosecutors are going after the victims.

Nahdlatul Ulama and various human rights groups have come to the defence of Ahmadis, criticising President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for speaking a lot about the problem but doing very little or nothing to solve it.

In East Java, the Anti-Discrimination Islamic Networking (JIAD), a liberal Muslim group, called on provincial authorities to repeal its ban on Ahmadi followers, arguing that it can be “manipulated” by extremists and lead to fresh new violence. In Samarinda (East Borneo), a local group has promoted a public debate to appease social conflicts.

However, for the Ahmadis, the position taken by the NU is the most significant. In a press release, the organisation’s president, Agil Siradj, denied a recent report by the Antara news agency, that claimed that the NU wanted the government to take action against the heretic sect.

“The news is not accurate, and the agency has acknowledged its fault,” Siradj said. Even though the teachings of the Ahmadi sect are not in line with mainstream Islamic doctrine, he said, this in no ways justified “violent action against them”.

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