Hard-Liners Demand Govt Ban Ahmadiyah Sect

Jakarta, Indonesia - While officials and analysts debated the merits of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s call to disband violent organizations, calls grew louder on Thursday for the minority Ahmadiyah sect to be disbanded instead.

Speaking at a discussion in Jakarta, Hasrul Azwar, House faction chairman of the Islam-based United Development Party (PPP), said the only way to stop the violence was to disband Ahmadiyah as an organization.

“The government must make its stance clear,” he said. “It’s not about human rights, it’s about the defamation of Islam.”

Calls for the sect to be disbanded come just days after a mob of around 1,500 Muslims attacked a house occupied by 25 Ahmadiyah followers in a village in Banten, leaving three dead.

Muslim groups have accused Ahmadiyah members of heresy, saying that they profess their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be the final prophet of Islam — a tenet that runs directly against mainstream Islamic beliefs that reserve that claim for the Prophet Muhammad.

This accusation has been disputed by the Ahmadiyah community, but is the main reason behind the government’s 2008 joint ministerial decree banning Ahmadiyah members from spreading their faith.

Activists say there have been at least 100 attacks against Ahmadiyah communities in Indonesia over the past decade, and that the 2008 decree has been used by hard-liners as a cover to further attack the sect.

Deputy House Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso of the Golkar Party suggested Ahmadiyah should declare itself as a new religion to end the continuing conflict that has surrounded its existence in Indonesia.

If Ahmadis could not “repent, recognize their mistake and come back to mainstream Islam,” then they should “leave Islam and declare a new religion,” he said on Thursday, echoing calls made a day earlier by Imran Muchtar, from the ruling Democratic Party.

However, Priyo clarified that he did not condone banning the sect outright.

“No, their beliefs should not be banned here; I don’t have the heart for that,” he said.

“So, [I say to] Ahmadis, don’t hesitate to declare Ahmadiyah as a new religion.”

He said if Ahmadiyah was established as a new religion then its followers would be allowed to hold religious services and would be protected from persecution.

Two hard-line Muslim activists on Thursday called for the sect to be banned altogether.

Achmad Michdan, a member of the Muslim Defenders Team (TPM), said the Ahmadiyah sect should be disbanded because it was clearly deviating from Islamic teachings and was guilty of committing blasphemy.

“Ahmadiyah must be prosecuted and disbanded. Under our law, violations of intellectual property rights in music, for instance, risk criminal conviction and punishment,” the lawyer told reporters at the South Jakarta District Court.

“What Ahmadiyah does is much more serious than that. They bring a different interpretation of Islam and disregard its basic teachings, such as Mohammed being the last prophet.

“I can’t believe that having committed such serious offenses Ahmadiyah can go unpunished under our law.”

Muhammad Al Khaththath, secretary general of the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI), said the continued sectarian conflicts over the Ahmadiyah were in part due to government inertia on the issue.

“When conflicts regarding the Ahmadiyah occur, it is always the Muslims who are blamed. Why is that?” Khaththath said.

“Ahmadiyah must be disbanded. If [Yudhoyono] can’t find a solution then he had better step down.”

The sect has faced frequent calls for disbandment, including from Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali.

In September last year, the minister said the government had two options to deal with the Ahmadiyah: either maintain the current restrictions on the group’s activities, or ban the group altogether.

A ban, he said, would protect group members from attack and may help bring them back into the fold of mainstream Islam.