West Lombok Plans to Exile Followers of Ahmadiyah

Mataram & Jakarta, Indonesia - A district head in West Nusa Tenggara announced a plan on Monday to relocate 20 Ahmadiyah families to a remote island, a move many call discriminatory and inhumane.

“We are trying to protect Ahmadiyah members,” said Zaini Arony, the West Lombok district head, as quoted by Antara.

Zaini said he had discussed the matter with religious figures and members of society, adding that it had been agreed the Ahmadiyah members would be relocated to Teluk Sepi Island in Sekotong subdistrict.

He claimed the local administration feared a repeat of an incident in February 2006 when thousands of mainstream Muslims burned down homes belonging to Ahmadiyah members in the district.

The incident left as many as 137 people from more than 40 families homeless, all of whom had to be escorted by police officers to a temporary shelter in Mataram, the provincial capital.

In August, at least 20 families left the shelter and returned to the district. Zaini said many groups opposed their homecoming.

Ispan Junaidi, a spokesman for the district head, said 22 families would be relocated to Teluk Sepi next year.

“There’s enough land there for them to farm,” he told the Jakarta Globe. “It’s a better solution than letting them get attacked or killed. It’s the humane thing to do.”

Ispan added that the plan had not been run by the Ahmadiyah refugees themselves.

Zafrullah Pontoh, the president of the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI), told the Globe that the West Lombok government had never discussed the matter with the sect.

“The local administration is trying to banish Ahmadiyah from West Lombok,” he said.

Jauzi Djafar, a spokesman for the provincial chapter of the JAI, said the West Lombok administration had consistently failed to find permanent placement for the 22 Ahmadiyah families still living in the Mataram shelter.

“There has never been any clarity as to what the administration is trying to do with the refugees,” he said.

“We are tired of being tossed around from one government office to the next.

“We’re ready to be relocated anywhere, as long as the government recognizes our rights and stops discriminating against us,” Jauzi added.

The refugees are living in the Transito shelter, owned by the municipal manpower office, with no electricity or sewage disposal.

The displaced Ahmadiyah members have also been denied identification cards, making it virtually impossible for them to apply for work or the national health insurance scheme for the poor (Jamkesmas).

Ulil Abshar Abdalla, founder of the Liberal Islam Network and a Democratic Party politician, said the government must not support calls for intolerance against Ahmadiyah from mainstream Muslim groups.

“It takes time to correct the religious indoctrination that spurs hatred toward Ahmadiyah. It takes time to reach cultural maturity to accept different views,” he said.

Followers of Ahmadiyah, a sect founded in India in 1889, profess that the group’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is the last prophet, a belief that runs counter to mainstream Islamic beliefs that reserve that distinction for the Prophet Muhammad.