Three more Ahmadiyah mosques closed in West Java

Persecuted sect loses faith in government
Three more Ahmadiyah mosques closed in West Java
Three Ahmadiyah mosques were boarded up in West Java last week
Followers of the minority Islamic Ahmadiyah sect have lost faith in the Indonesian government, a body representing the group said, after three of its mosques were closed on Friday due to attacks by residents.

Authorities in the West Javan district of Cianjur have effectively closed the mosques indefinitely under pressure from residents who joined members of fundamentalist group the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in attacking the buildings.

“Many followers no longer have hope. Their level of pessimism is very high,” said Firdaus Mubarik, a spokesman for the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation.

The mosques are located in three different sub-districts all close to each other – Al Ghofur in Ciparay, Baitun Nasir in Neglasari and Al Mahmid in Campaka.

Trouble started when an Ahmadiyah man was accused of building a shop without the necessary permit. The man, Jamaludin, says he secured the necessary license a year ago but an official asked an inflated price for the necessary permit – four million rupiah, about US$420 – but he could only afford to pay 1.5 million rupiah.

Residents and members of the FPI then claimed the law had been violated.

“[Some people] threw stones at the windows, door and roof tiles of the mosque in Ciparay,” said Mubarik.

Dozens of police and military personnel looked on and did nothing as the mob placed planks of wood on the mosque’s door to seal the entrance, he added.

Ahmadiyah followers later wanted to hold prayers peacefully, said Mubarik, but local authorities said they could not guarantee the safety of those attending.

“This is our deep concern. We also see that the local government is weak when dealing with the FPI. How can the FPI tell the local government what to do?” He said.

The FPI is a controversial, extremist and self-appointed defender of mainstream Islam, accused of hate crimes and terrorism which have prompted calls for it to be banned.

Started in the late 1990s by Saudi-educated Muhammad Rizieq Syihab, FPI’s overriding aim is to implement Sharia law in Indonesia. The group has been linked to senior politicians, police and military.

“By supporting what intolerant groups such as FPI do, local government has a political agenda. It thinks that if it fights against FPI, it will lose political support,” said Bonar Tigor Naipospos of the Institute for Democracy and Peace.

Attacks against the Ahmadiyah - deemed a heretical sect by many mainstream Muslims - started in 2002 with persecution escalating. Earlier this month, security officials also closed Misbah mosque in Bekasi district in West Java.

There are more than 15 regulations issued by local governments which expressly ban the sect and its half a million members in Indonesia.

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