Jakarta, Indonesia - After 24 years of peaceful coexistence in a dense neighborhood in North Jakarta, a small Ahmadiyah mosque on Friday faced its first protest by conservative Muslims demanding its closure.
“About 60 people came, claiming to be students from Da’wah Islamiyyah college, one kilometer away from here.
They held a demonstration,” Deden Sujana, head of security of the Ahmadiyah community, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.
But when the protesters arrived at 1:30 p.m., around 60 Ahmadiyah youths had already gathered inside the mosque and scores of police officers were standing by.
There was no violence and the Da’wah Islamiyyah group left about two hours later, after making a number of statements in front of the tightly guarded mosque.
But, they warned they would return if the mosque did not close down.
Police chief of the Tanjung Priok subdistrict Comr. Budhi Herdi Susianto and subdistrict chief Supriyono talked with the protesters and Budhi later said that “the gist was that they want the Ahmadiyah disbanded.”
The Ahmadiyah is a small sect that has incurred the wrath of some mainstream Muslims for claiming, against a tenet of Islam, that their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the last prophet.
The minority sect has been the target of attacks and violence in various towns and cities in West Java and West Nusa Tenggara in the past years.
Ahmadiyah’s Deden said the group had already visited last week and demanded that the Nuruddin mosque take down its sign board.
“We obliged because they brought with them the head of the neighborhood and several people claiming to be residents,” he continued.
On Thursday night, several people went to the mosque, warning it to close down.
“We could not oblige. Praying is an obligation in every religion. This is the house of God, they can’t just close it down,” Deden said.
Siti Afiah, 47, a housewife who has been living in the area for three years, said she had never been bothered by the mosque.
“It’s their business,” she said.
Karno, who has lived in the area for 20 years, realized that some of the locals had become somewhat anxious lately.
“Perhaps it’s because people started to see that the congregation was growing and those who came to the mosque were often not from the neighborhood,” the 50-year-old said.
He said local people who at first had no problems with the Ahmadiyah community might start to rethink their position now that the issue seems to be heating up.
Anshar, 72, one of the elders who started the Ahmadiyah congregation in the area, said the mosque was the only one for the Ahmadiyah group in North Jakarta, comprising some 200 people.
Bona Tigor Naipospos from the Setara Institute of Peace and Democracy said police and other state institutions will have to step up and stop discrimination of the Ahmadiyah.
He also questioned the reason behind the recent upsurge in protests. “All these times they were quiet. Why [demonstrate] now?”