Indonesian Ahmadis up in arms over mosque closure

Decision by West Java authorities seen as another example of persecution minority Muslim group
Indonesian Ahmadis up in arms over mosque closure

Authorities seal a mosque belonging to Ahmadiyya Muslims in Parakansalak in West Java in this July 26, 2016 file photo. Sect members have spoken out against the closure of another mosque in nearby Sawangan during Ramadan. (Photo courtesy of the Association of Journalists for Diversity)



Indonesia’s Ahamdiyya community and a leading Catholic organization have condemned a West Java mayor for sealing an Ahmadi mosque, calling it an act of persecution during the Holy month of Ramadan and for it to be reopened immediately.

Depok mayor, Idris Abdul Shomad, shuttered the Al Hidayah Mosque in Sawangan on June 4, saying he did so to avoid social conflict after protests from hard-line groups.

Ahmadiyya spokesman, Yendra Budiana, said the mayor’s excuse was ridiculous.

"Our mosque is legal. Our right to worship should be respected," he said.

The mosque, which caters to about 150 worshippers, has been under pressure from authorities since 2011 and has been closed on seven separate occasions.

However, closing it during Ramadan has been especially hard to take, according to Budiana.

The Ahmadiyya sect, which believes Prophet Mohammed was not the last prophet, is not banned in Indonesia, but in 2005 the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa calling the group heretical.

In 2008,the government prohibited the dissemination of Ahmadiyya teachings. 

In some areas, including West Java, local governments have gone further by restricting the sect’s ability to worship and turning a blind eye to acts of persecution, observers have said.

Mayor Shomad claimed the closure of the Depok mosque was in line with the ulema's fatwa.

"The closure was to protect them from potential violence. We are obliged to protect all people," he said.

Budiana said the Ahmadiyya community will fight the closure order in court.

Redem Kono of the Vox Point Institute, an association of Catholic laity condemned the closure.

"Pandering to the majority in this case can lead to similar decisions different kinds of cases," he said.

The state has an obligation to guarantee every citizen’s right to worship, he added.

Kono also criticized the mayor for using the ulema fatwa as a pretext for the mosques closure.

"An ulema fatwa is not a state law that can be applied to all groups," he said.

Alam M. Djafar of the Wahid Foundation, a religious freedom and human rights monitoring organization, called the closure discriminatory and showed authorities all too easily bow to pressure from certain groups.

"Even if there are other groups who consider Ahmadiyya different, the government should facilitate dialogue," he said.

Minister of Religious Affairs Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, also criticized the closure but did not want to be drawn into the dispute.

Ahmadiyya are only prohibited from disseminating their teachings, however, "we must respect their rights to worship," he said.

The Ahmadiyya community has become one of the most persecuted minority groups in Indonesia since the 2005 fatwa was issued.

In February 2011, three sect members were killed in a mob attack on an Ahmadiyya house in Cikeusik, in Banten province.

The National Commission on Human Rights last year logged 22 cases of persecution last year.

The commission said in most cases the perpetrators were local authorities and hard-line groups.


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