Ahmadi leaders call for pluralistic and tolerant Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia - Indonesia needs "people with a strong sense of State", capable of maintaining a "strong leadership" who have "a long term vision" to promote a pluralistic and civil society "in the spirit of" tolerance of others, and especially minorities. " So two Ahmadi leaders tell AsiaNews, a sect that is considered heretical in many Islamic countries because it does not recognize Muhammad as the last prophet. Meanwhile, the defence ministry denies there is a campaign - initiated by a fringe of the army and police - to force "infidels" to "convert to the original and pure Islam." However, the government's statements do not suffice to restore a climate of peace and security in civil society.

An Ahmadi leader in Jakarta, speaking on the condition of anonymity, comments on the latest rumours that the government is in favour of banning the sect. "I personally believe that the same Minister Djoko Suyanto [responsible for internal security] is opposed to the idea of ​​banning any religious belief. He is opposed to outlawing Ahmadis”. In provinces that are favourable, he explains, local leaders do not have the legal authority to target groups or religious movements. "Behaviour contrary to the teachings of Islam or the doctrine can be banned - says the source from Jakarta - not a religious group that promotes a certain type of 'faith'."

AsiaNews also spoke to a second Ahmadi leader, a native of Central Java. He, too, on the guarantee of anonymity for fear of retaliation, points out that the Ahmadis practice the spirit of love and tolerance taught by the Prophet Muhammad. "Love for all - said the leader of the sect - and hatred towards no-one." Reaffirming that the provincial and district officials have no powers to ban religious movements, the Ahmadi leader instead calls for "security for religious minorities, affected by the violence promoted by other groups."

On the political front, meanwhile, attempts are being made to defuse the controversy that has erupted around rumours of "proselytizing" in the army and police. A few days ago in Bogor, some members of the military and security forces launched a secret campaign on Ahmadis, inviting them to "convert" to the pure and original Islam. At a Parliament meeting, Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro denied the existence of the so-called "operation Sajadah" - the Arabic for prayer, ed - and said the military are not "proselytizing."

To date, only three provinces in Indonesia have declared the Ahmadi sect lawful: Yogyakarta, Jakarta and Jambi. Most provinces have not espresse themselves on the issue, while in other areas of West Java, including Bogor and Kuningan, incidents "of violence" against the faithful are frequent, with raids and targeted attacks. Aan Ashore, an activist of Islamic Anti-Discrimination Network (JIAD) – a movement based in Surabaya, East Java - stressed that "we must safeguard the supreme value of human rights" in any government intervention that deals with Ahmadi question. \