The Jakarta Post
The atmosphere was convivial in Wonosobo, Central Java, when 18-year-old Fikri Darmawan ordered three cups of kopi joss, the city’s signature coffee that contains a burning lump of charcoal, for him and his friends, Miftahul Choir and Muhammad Aldo.
The sight of the three boys hanging out together may seem ordinary, except for the fact that Fikri has been raised in an Ahmadi household, a religious minority that is often persecuted. But for Aldo and Miftahul, who are devoted Sunnis, Fikri is nothing more than their best friend.
“I have lived here since I started junior high school, and I never experienced any conflict related to my religious background here. In fact, I don’t think such conflict exists here,” Fikri told The Jakarta Post.
“We only argue over soccer because we support different teams,” Fikri added.
Known as a transit point for tourists before they commence their trip to the popular Dieng Plateau, Wonosobo is home to people with different religious backgrounds, including the Ahmadis.
Around 6,000 live in Wonosobo, making it the city with the largest Ahmadi population in the country.
According to Maulana Nurhadi, an Ahmadi preacher and community leader, the city had welcoming the Ahmadis since they first arrived in the early 1920s.
He added that the Ahmadis were introduced to Wonosobo by Pakistanmubaligh (preacher) Mirza Wali Ahmad Baig in 1920.
Later that year, a young Ahmadi figure in Wonosobo named Sabitun, was sent to Lahore, Pakistan, to learn more about Ahmadiya. He later returned to his hometown and built a pesantren (Islamic boarding school) to spread Ahmadi teachings.
“The local administration has also been supportive of the Ahmadis. The previous regent, for example, initiated regular interfaith meetings,” Maulana said, referring to former Wonosobo regent Abdul Kholiq Arif.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring regency of Banjarnegara, the Ahmadis are banned from organizing pengajian (Islamic study groups) following a protest by local Sunnis.
Ahmadiyah Congregation Indonesia (JAI) spokesperson Yendra Budiana told the Post recently that persecution against the Ahmadis often occurred after provocation by certain groups.
“Lombok is also an area where Ahmadis face persecution. However, it is also important to note that this only occurred in several areas on the island,” Yendra said.
In 2005, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a fatwa declaring the Ahmadis heretics, though it did not recommend a full ban.
In 2008, then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration endorsed a joint ministerial decree that effectively restricts Ahmadiyah activities in the country.
Several regions across the country also followed suit, but Wonosobo regency instead issued a bylaw declaring “Wonosobo a human rights friendly regency”, which has been attributed to its relative success in ensuring minorities’ rights to practice their beliefs.
Article 28 of Bylaw No. 5/2016 stipulates that everyone has the right to follow their beliefs free of interference.
Ari Kristyanto Nugroho, who is a member of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) the largest Muslim organization in the country, said he failed to understand why minority groups such as the Ahmadiyah needed to be restricted.
“We are all family here. They are Muslim, and I’m a Muslim as well. Our religion teaches us to love and respect each other. Isn’t banning them from practicing their religion defeating the purpose of Islam?” Ari said.