Special Report

MUI fatwa feeds flames
of clerics’ hate speech

The animosity faced by followers of Ahmadiyah in Ketapang hamlet in West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, peaked on Oct. 19, 2005, a few months after the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a second fatwa against the nation’s most persecuted religious minority.

Local resident Zulkhair Mujib vividly recalls the day.

He said local firebrand cleric Izzi Muslim, speaking at a mosque through a loudspeaker, called for the expulsion of the 130 Ahmadis in the hamlet.

“Ahmadiyah is a deviant and deviating faith. I tell you, if the residents of Ketapang don’t banish the Ahmadis, I will ask people in Central Lombok to do so,” Zulkhair quoted Izzi as preaching.

“If the people in Ketapang do not join us in attacking the Ahmadis, I will burn their houses,” Izzi continued.

The hate speech led to the first attack on Ahmadis in Ketapang, but failed to drive them out of the village.

Zulkhair said people became angry because of the failure, with Izzi strengthening his vow to continue efforts to expel the Ahmadis.

On Feb. 4, 2006, locals made another attempt to drive the Ahmadis out. This time, they succeeded.

Dozens of Ahmadi families now have no other option than to live in a refugee camp in Mataram, probably for the rest of their lives.

The MUI has repeatedly brushed off allegations that its irresponsible and controversial fatwa triggered the attacks on the Ahmadiyah followers.

Analysts said several clerics were actively spreading hate speech, using the MUI fatwa as a platform to vilify Ahmadiyah.

On July 28, 2005, at its seventh national congress in Jakarta, the MUI reiterated a 1980 fatwa that said Ahmadiyah strayed from Koranic teaching and ordered the government to outlaw the group.

The point of contention between the MUI and the Ahmadis, the MUI claims, centered around the refusal of Ahmadis to acknowledge Muhammad as the last prophet of Islam.

The MUI said the debacle would end if Ahmadis formed their own religion by ridding themselves of all pretensions to Islam.

“The government is obliged to ban the spread of Ahmadiyah across Indonesia, disband the organization and outlaw its activities,” the fatwa signed by then MUI chairman Umar Shihab and secretary Din Syamsuddin (now chairman of Muhammadiyah, the nation’s second-largest Muslim organization after the Nahdlatul Ulama), read.

Muhammadiyah is widely seen as the voice of moderate Islam.

The MUI fatwa was issued at a time of growing pressure from hard-line Muslim groups who wanted the MUI — which consists of representatives from major mainstream Muslim groups in the country — to take a firmer stance on the issue.

Zukhair said that only weeks after the MUI edict was issued, religious congregations in West Lombok were becoming increasingly critical of Ahmadiyah, fomenting hatred against the Ahmadis among the general public.

Izzi confirmed he had made harsh speeches about the Ahmadis, but said he was only citing the MUI fatwa in his rhetoric. He said he was convinced Ahmadis were heretical and had no place in Indonesia.

“The people cannot accept Ahmadiyah. We can accept Hindus and Christians because they do not blaspheme against Islam,” he said.

“If you ask me whether Islam condones violence toward the Ahmadis, let me ask you this: Are others allowed to commit blasphemy against Islam?”

A report issued by the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in 2006 indicated systematic efforts to spread anti-Ahmadiyah sentiment.

The report said religious justifications, such as the fatwa, were used as a pretext to persecute Ahmadiyah.

Subki Sasaki, a Muslim cleric from Central Lombok, said hatred among locals could be prevented if clerics distanced themselves from the language of hate.

He said locals could coexist despite religious differences, citing the existence of Islam Sasak or Wetu Telu followers, whose faith also differs from mainstream Islam.

“People are susceptible to indoctrination by religious leaders. When the fatwa was issued, religious leaders conveyed the fatwa to a subservient public. So when people are incited to attack, they will.”

— Additional reporting by Panca Nugrah

- JP/Arghea Desafti Hapsari

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