Ahmadiyah followers fear more sectarian attacks to follow

Kuningan, Indonesia - Thousands of followers of the Ahmadiyah sect in Kuningan, West Java, are living in fresh fear of sectarian violence following the burning down of one of their mosques in Sukabumi on Monday.

In Manis Lor village, where there are some 3,000 followers, villagers declined to do their daily chores outside their homes despite the presence of riot police deployed to provide protection in the village day and night.

Kuningan sect leader Abdul Syukur and fellow leader Kulman Trisnaprawira said that village residents, mostly Ahmadiyah followers, were shocked by the burning of Al Furqon Mosque in Parakansalak, Sukabumi, in line with increasing demands for nationwide banning on the sect.

"Psychologically, our residents are shocked by the incident. Despite the absence of intimidation and terror and the presence of police personnel in the village, we are in constant fear of violence," Abdul told The Jakarta Post here on Tuesday.

He has asked local youth to help the police with security in and around the village to avoid unwanted incidents.

"I believe in the security authorities and their professionalism and we are optimistic nothing will happen in the village but we must be prepared for the worst case," he said.

Abdul and Kulman denied exclusivism and blamed their tendency to live apart on government and on the behavior of some Muslims.

They said that since 1954 when Ahmadiyah entered the regency, there had been no problems and social life had gone on peacefully. Serious problems only rose to the surface after the local administration declared the sect to be heretical.

"Who should be blamed for this? Ahmadiyah followers have now been isolated and persecuted by our own brothers and no sanctions have been imposed against them. We have lived here for decades peacefully. The problem emerged when local authorities abused their power to brand us as heretic," said Kulman.

He said Ahmadiyah followers have no objections to do Friday prayers with other Muslims and in other mosques "but it has been difficult for us to do so since we are branded heretic, our mosques are sealed and we are cut off from daily social contacts."

In Mataram, West Lombok, 57 families belonging to the sect agreed and said their being isolated in temporary shelters at a transmigration building has given the impression that they are an exclusive group.

The sect leader in the province, M. Djauji, said the families could not assimilate with society at large because they were displaced from their village in Ketapang to an isolated building.

"Despite the isolation, many people have worked in construction projects and as ojek drivers to survive the difficult situation," he said, adding his group has been isolated both physically and economically for two years since their homes and assets were destroyed in 2006.

He called on the government to stay neutral in handling the issue and take actions against those using violence against the sect's followers.

In contrast with the executive board of the country's largest Muslim organization, Nadhlatul Ulama, the provincial chapter in East Java called on the government to issue an immediate ban on the sect which it said has caused public unrest.

Deputy chairman of the NU provincial chapter Abdurrahman Navis said he opposed the violence against the sect's followers and the government should formally ban the sect to help stop the violence.

According to him, the government and all Muslim groups should hold dialogue to seek a peaceful solution to the sect and try to avoid sectarian conflict.