Intimidation of Ahmadis escalates in West Java
The Jakarta Post
The Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI) West Java is standing strong after the local Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a letter asking them to cease worshipping in order to maintain security and order.
The MUI in Ciamis, West Java, asked the local Ahmadiyah community to stop all forms of activity at the Khilafat Nur Mosque.
The letter was issued after police warned about the possibility of attacks following the legislative election.
An Ahmadi from Ciamis, Syaeful Uyun, said the community rejected the plea.
'With all due respect, we reject the MUI's appeal. We have already stated our objections in a return letter,' Syaiful told The Jakarta Post over the phone, on Thursday.
The letter was forwarded to the region's MUI chapter, the governor and the West Java Police.
'Our letter states that Indonesia guarantees religious freedom for its citizens. The 1945 Constitution also guarantees it. When we pray at the mosque, it doesn't violate the joint decree,' he said, referring to the 2008 Joint Decree between the religious affairs minister, the attorney general and the home minister regarding the Ahmadiyah.
One of the points of the joint decree stipulates that the JAI stop activities deemed inconsistent with the 'general' interpretation of Islam.
According to Syaeful, the plea is an effort to obstruct citizens from practicing their faith.
He claimed they were asked by the Ciamis Police on April 8 to stop activities in fear of a public uprising after the April 9 election.
Contacted separately, West Java Police spokesperson Martinus Sitompul denied Syaeful's claim, stating that personnel appointed to the Ahmadi settlements in the area were tasked with ensuring public order and protection during the election period.
West Java Police chief Insp. Gen. M. Iriawan said his men would coordinate with the Ciamis Police to protect the region.
The mosque, which is located in the city center and welcomes about 100 Ahmadi faithful, was built in 1965. There has never been any requests to stop activities at the mosque until now.
'It would be overstepping the law if the mosque is closed. If there are protests, please act within the scope of the central government's procedures,' Syaeful said.
Meanwhile, advocacy coordinator of the Wahid Institute, Subhi Azhari, said the government was inconsistent when dealing with the Ahmadi.
'The Constitution has guaranteed that all citizens are entitled to their own faith. If the government takes the wrong action, it risks being labeled as biased.'
Subhi said that setting up an inclusive dialogue would be the best way to settle the disputes.
'We all have to abide by the rules. But outside of that, dialogue is the way to go,' he added.
The Ahmadis' complaint is the latest case of religious minorities attempting to pursue the practice of their faith.
From February to April last year, Bekasi officials sealed the Al-Misbah Mosque in Pondok Gede, Jakarta, three times.
That same year in West Java alone, there were 40 cases of religious intolerance by authorities, compared to Jakarta's eight cases, according to a study by the Wahid Institute. (tjs)
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