Muslim sect braces for Indonesia Ramadan violence

Jakarta, Indonesia - As most Indonesian Muslims started the fasting month of Ramadan peacefully this week, followers of the minority Ahmadiyah Islamic sect braced themselves for hatred and bloodshed.

Ahmadiyah leaders said they feared the worst after a court last week handed down sentences of only a few months in jail to hardliners who killed three sect members in a vicious mob attack.

'The extremists say this is a holy month, everything must be pure and sacred. So we, the Ahmadiyah followers, must be cleared out,' Ahmadiyah spokesman Firdaus Mubarik told AFP.

The sect is unorthodox in that it does not believe Mohammed is the last prophet of Islam. It claims 500,000 followers in Indonesia, where it has existed in relative calm since the 1920s.

Islamic vigilante groups, emboldened by a decree ordering the sect to stop spreading its beliefs in the Muslim-majority country, have recently started targeting the Ahmadiyah in an ugly wave of hate crimes.

'For us, the fasting month doesn't mean there'll be peace for us to perform our religious obligations. On the contrary, there are more opportunities for Muslim extremists to mobilise and incite people to attack us,' Mr Mubarik said.