Jakarta, Indonesia - Indonesia has declared war on the Ahmadi sect, guilty of deviating from official Islamic doctrine. Not only the extremist fringe, but also members of the government - including Minister for Religious Affairs - officials and representatives of the moderate Muslim community are calling for a crack down on followers. A campaign of repression and intolerance that has even caught Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono by surprise, who recently had repeatedly asked local and national politicians, as well as police forces, to suppress the manifestations of intolerance in the country.
Yesterday, the Indonesian Islamic Forum (FUI) held a mass demonstration in front of the seat of government in Central Jakarta, repeatedly demanding that it ban the Ahmadi. FUI - which brings together two extremist groups: the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) – was flexing its muscle and announce its intent to charge the Indonesian president. According to the secretary general Muhammad Al-Khathath, in fact, by tolerating the Ahmadi sect Yudhoyono has violated the 1965 law on blasphemy. Ahmadis - disciples of the founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad - do not recognize Muhammad as the last prophet and, therefore, are considered heretics.
The witch hunt against the Ahmadi sect in Indonesia is one of many signs of failure to protect religious minorities in the country. Last year, even Suryadharma Ali, Minister for Religious Affairs, branded the sect as "illegal" and expressed himself in favour of a ban. Recently, a leading member of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) - the largest moderate Muslim movement - has made it clear that there can be no compromise: Islam acknowledges the Holy Koran, Allah and the Prophet Muhammad, said its former head Nu Hajj Hasyim Muzadi, and "in these three areas there is zero tolerance." He added: "if they are reluctant to change their doctrine, the better they are expelled from Islam and declared a new sect that has nothing to do with Islam."
The protest is also mounting in East Java, where the governor Sukarwo officially declared the sect illegal. The move has the support of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), which prevents Ahmadi faithful from praying in public and mosques. Only a small group of human rights activists and members of civil society have come out in defense of the religious minority.
In one of the main streets of downtown Jakarta a giant banner has appeared, which bears the names of some Ahmadi leaders. Among them appear the name of the founder, Goenawan Mohamad journalist, human rights activist Hendardi and lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution.