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Majority want Amadiyah to get out, says survey

Analysts say findings show rise in religious intolerance

The government needs to support minorities, says researcher Philips Vermonte (photo by Ryan Dagur) The government needs to support minorities, says researcher Philips Vermonte (photo by Ryan Dagur)
  • Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • August 1, 2012
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A new survey on religious intolerance has found that only 1.4 percent of Indonesians want those in the minority Muslim Amadiyah sect to remain in the country.
The survey by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) also found that more than 60 percent of the population consider the non-orthodox sect to be heretical.
Followers of Amadiyah believe Mirza Ghulam, who lived in the area now known as the Punjab in the late 1800s, was the last Islamic prophet, whereas most Muslims accord this status to Mohammed.
Philips Vermonte, an analyst at CSIS, told a discussion in Jakarta yesterday that the results were further proof that religious intolerance in Indonesia is worsening, partly because the government too often neglects the minority.
“The government’s stance is to do with its efforts to gain power,” he said. “Following the intolerant majority group’s interests is a way to keep its power safe.”
The survey, based on interviews in 23 of the country’s 33 provinces, also found that only 10.4 percent of the population disagree that followers of Amadiyah are heretical, while just over 27 percent remained neutral.
According to US State Department figures, a substantial number of Indonesia’s 200,000 to 400,000 Ahmadiyah followers live in West Nusa Tenggara province, where they endured repeated attacks between 2006 and 2010 in which houses were burned down.
Many were forced to flee, said Ahmad Najib Burhani, an analyst from the Maarif Institute for Culture and Humanity, mainly due to a lack of support by the authorities.
“The most shocking thing was the local government’s solution,” he said. “Firstly, it asked Ahmadiyah followers to seek asylum in other countries. Secondly, it planned to move them to an isolated island.”
Ahmadiyah follower Zafrullah Ahmad Pontoh said at a discussion yesterday at the Maarif Institute's offices in Jakarta that his sect felt there was no reason for orthodox Muslims to persecute them.
“We came into this world [as a sect] before this country was established,” he said. “We ask everyone to respect us … it doesn’t matter if they disagree with what we believe.”
In its annual report on international religious freedom released on Monday, the US State Department said “there was some deterioration in the protection of the right to religious freedom” in Indonesia last year.

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