minority faiths have dismissed the remark on state protection of religious
freedoms, citing inconsistency on the ground and in the courts.
Court chief Mahfud MD told visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Tuesday that people could even be atheists and communists as long as they did
not ‘interfere’ with people who chose a religion.
A Shia follower,
Iklil Al Milal, 40, for instance, said Mahfud’s statement contradicted with
last week’s verdict on his brother, Tajul Muluk, who was sentenced to two years
in prison for blasphemy against Islam.
Judges at the
Sampang District Court in Madura, East Java declared Tajul’s Shia teaching
defied mainstream Sunni Muslims in Indonesia.
“A smart man
like Mahfud must know that many countries have officially recognized Shia as
another denomination in Islam beside Sunni,” Iklil said, adding that he
to also recognize his belief soon.
During his brother’s
trial, he said, many expert witnesses had told the judges that the court was
not mandated to settle the differences between the Shia and Sunni.
denominations have thousands of years of differences. Indonesians should have
learned to live side by side with their Shia neighbors,” said Iklil, quoting
testimonies in one of his brother’s hearings.
Iklil was among
dozens of Shia followers, who had to leave their hometown in Sampang, to avoid
hostile locals. Last December, a group of people burned down an Islamic boarding
school in Sampang, owned by Tajul.
The mobs accused
Tajul of propagating heretic Islamic teachings. Now, Iklil resides in Sidoarjo,
East Java, living separately from his wife and five children in Malang, East Java.
Iklil said Mahfud’s
statement was too good to be true.
“He can say as
he pleases. But in reality minorities are prosecuted in this country. Ahmadiyah
and Shia followers, for instance, still have to fight for their religious
“We are also
Indonesian citizens. We have rights to live in this land.”
another minority religion follower, Mukhsin of Ahmadiyah, lauded Mahfud’s
statement and agreed that Indonesia
already had a legal foundation to guarantee the freedom of religion.
exercise of such freedom is often not protected by authorities, he said.
of minority Islam sects in Indonesia,
such as Shia and Ahmadiyah, become objects of prosecution because the majority of
Sunnis here consider the two sects deviating from mainstream Islamic teachings.
On Friday locals
attacked the residential area of around 500 Ahmadis living in Mukhsin’s village
in Cisalada, Bogor, in West
Java. Mukhsin said locals objected to the visit of a group of Netherlands’
researchers and journalists, who wanted to tape a story about Ahmadis’ life.
only wanted to cover our agriculture activities. They were brought here by the
Ahmadiyah’s headquarters; we didn’t know about their scheduled visit,” he said.
were injured, and two of them were taken to hospital, Mukhsin said.
attack, only five police officers appeared at the scene. Only after locals
disbanded themselves, some 200 officers showed up, he said.
“Prior to the
attack, I came to Ciampea police district [in Bogor]
on Thursday to request more security, considering a rumor about FPI [the Islam
Defenders Front]’s plan to attack Ahmadiyah community in Parung [Bogor] on July 15 [this
Sunday],” he said.
Police, he said,
had accepted his reports, but took no action. Therefore, police failed to
safeguard the Ahmadis despite an imminent threat.
“We are not a
Muslim-based country, but a Pancasila-based country. We are protected by the
law. But police did not make sufficient measures to prevent any attack on us,” Mukhsin
told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
According to the
1965 law on blasphemy, the state recognizes Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism,
Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
The Court under
Mahfhudo in 2010 upheld the law on blasphemy. Rights activists say the law
lends justification of violence to minority faiths such as the Ahmadiyah and