The constantly under fire followers of the Ahmadiyah religious sect are facing yet another round of persecution.
This time the administration of Depok, West Java, has shut down their last remaining mosque following intense pressure from a mob demanding the disbandment of the congregation.
A sign has been erected in front of the Al-Hidayah Mosque, declaring illegal all the sect’s activities in the precinct. Seven Ahmadis were forced to perform their obligatory Friday prayers in the mosque’s yard.
The mosque has been shuttered six times since 2011, when an influential Islamic group in Depok, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), declared the sect heretical.
Ahmadi beliefs are regarded as deviant by most Indonesian Muslims, who are mainly Sunnis, because Ahmadis do not regard Muhammad as the last prophet.
Hundreds of Islamic hard-liners, including members of the notorious Islam Defenders Front (FPI), staged a rally on Friday in front of the mosque and threatened to take harsh measures should the authorities fail to expel the Ahmadis from the city as well as to demolish the sealed mosque.
“We reject the presence of Ahmadis in Depok. They have been declared heretical yet they still practice their beliefs here. Don’t blame us if we take tough action,” cleric Ahmad Daman Huri said in his speech.
The rally participants claimed they were ready to die to defend what they described as “an attempt to protect Islamic values.”
As many as 400 personnel from the police, the Army and the local Public Order Agency stood guard in front of the mosque, aiming to prevent the crowd from either entering or damaging the house of worship, which was built in 1999.
The mosque, which obtained a permit as a house of worship in 2007, is a sacred place for nearly 400 Ahmadis who had practised their faith uninterrupted until 2011 when persecution of the Ahmadis commenced nationwide.
Farid Mahmud Ahmad, an Ahmadiyah cleric, questioned the closure, saying the move lacked transparency and legal backing.
“We never received any notification before the closure. They say that our activities are illegal, but what activities? The term is not clear and is open to multiple interpretations,” he said.
He added that members of the sect had been there since the late 1980s and lived in harmony with the rest of the community. However, things turned sour when the sect was declared heretical.
“We used to socialize well and were accepted by society. We even organized an annual sporting event,” said Farid.
“We started to face some trouble early in 2011, when a seminar was held by the MUI in Depok declaring us heretical,” he said, adding that the growing negative perception had forced the sect to refrain from public activity in 2014.
The administration did not seek a court decision before deciding to shutter the Al-Hidayah Mosque.
The step was taken on the basis of a 2008 joint ministerial decree and a 2011 Depok city bylaw concerning the Ahmadiyah.
The regulations prohibited Ahmadiyah followers from spreading their faith, said Depok Public Order Agency head Dudi Mi’raz.
National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) chairman Imdadun Rahmat slammed the closure, saying the city administration should instead protect its citizens in carrying out their activities regardless of their beliefs.
“The closure is baseless. The joint ministerial decree never touched on banning their activities,” he said, adding that the commission would send a letter to the administration, urging them and the police to ensure the safety of the Ahmadis.
“The administration should instead educate the citizens about tolerance and take firm action against intolerant groups,” he added.
Depok Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Herry Heryawan insisted the police would continue to protect any lawful activity carried out by residents in the city, including the Ahmadis.
Indonesia has seen an increase in violations against religious freedom. The Wahid Institute recorded 190 violations against religious freedom in 2015, a 23 percent increase from the 154 in 2014.
The violations were mostly in the form of sealing places of worship and the prohibition of their construction, as well as obstructing celebrations or rituals of certain faiths.