Clerics in Indonesia's Banten
province have called on local authorities to ban a "heretical and blasphemous" Muslim sect after it claimed the Prophet Muhammad was a woman. The sect, called the Jellyfish Kingdom, is led by a woman named Aisyah and has about a dozen members, according to media reports. Based in provincial capital Serang, the sect has been propagating its beliefs during "all-night activities" at a house over the last two months that have prompted a slew of complaints. "Jellyfish Kingdom is heretical and can be regarded as blasphemous," Amas Tajudin, secretary of the Serang chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), told local news outlet bantennews.co.id
on Aug. 13, after visiting the house with police and local community leaders. He said the sect's leader believes that the "Prophet Muhammad was a woman and born in Sumedang, West Java" and that she was Ratu Kidul, a mythical figure and reputed queen of the Southern Sea, who was a follower of a local indigenous faith called Sunda Wiwitan. However, she acknowledges the Quran is the holy book and Allah as God, he said. He called on police to immediately ban the sect and prosecute the leader and its members for blasphemy. Zainut Tauhid Sa'adi, deputy chairman of the MUI's national council, told ucanews.com on Aug. 17 that a team had been sent to Serang to investigate the matter. "We haven't received a report [from the team], so we cannot decide on anything yet," he said, adding that he backed the local chapter's handling of the issue. Calling for the local community to stay calm, he praised police for preventing angry Muslims from taking the law into their own hands. During the visit to the house, police arrested the 12 sect members and seized papers containing the sect's beliefs. Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Jakarta-based Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace
, said the group was just strange and not causing real harm. "Despite their weird activities and beliefs upsetting some people, they should not be criminalized or deemed blasphemous," he said. According to Amnesty International, Indonesia's blasphemy law has often been used to target individuals who belong to minority religions, particularly people who adhere to interpretations of Islam that deviate from the mainstream form of Islam in Indonesia, such as the Ahmadiyya sect.