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Moderate Indonesian Muslims pressured to give up faith

Moderate Indonesian Muslims pressured to give up faith

A prominent council of clerics said Tuesday it would help enforce government restrictions against a Muslim sect branded as heretical, possibly fueling tensions in Indonesia's simmering debate about religious freedom.
The influential Ulema Council said it would monitor and report on activities by the sect, known as Ahmadiyah.
A decree issued Monday by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Cabinet ordered the group to stop practicing their faith or face five years' imprisonment.
Hard-liners, who have in recent weeks beaten Ahmadiyah followers and torched their mosques, said the measure fell short of their demand that the group be outlawed outright and vowed to step up pressure on the government. But rights activists accused the state of violating its obligation to protect religious minorities.
"If Ahmadiyah disobeys the decree, or continues its deviant activities, we will report it to the authorities and recommend that the president disband Ahmadiyah," the chairman of the Ulema Council, Ma'ruf Amin, said in an interview.
Hundreds of police were deployed to Ahmadiyah strongholds to prevent clashes with opponents, el-Shinta radio reported.
The sect, which has roughly 200,000 Indonesian members, follows Islam's main tenants, but is considered deviant by conservatives because it does not recognize Muhammad as the final prophet.
Indonesia is a secular state with more Muslims than any other in the world, some 210 million. Most practice a moderate form of the faith, but an increasingly vocal extremist fringe appears to be gaining influence over the government, which relies on political support from Islamic parties.
The perpetrators of violence against Ahmadiyah often go unpunished.
The document signed Monday by two Cabinet ministers and the attorney general "orders all Ahmadiyah followers to stop their activities" and return to the mainstream Islam.
Human Rights Watch called on Yudhoyono to reverse the decision, seen as undermining a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom in the vast archipelagic nation.
"The Indonesian government should stand up for religious tolerance instead of prosecuting people for their religious views," said Brad Adams, the New York-based group's Asia director. "That's a bedrock principle of modern Indonesia."
Ahmadiyah was established in 1889 in Punjab, a region straddling the Indian-Pakistan border, and is banned in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It arrived in Indonesia more than 80 years ago and has millions of followers worldwide.
Attacks targeting Ahmadiyah became widespread in Indonesia after the Ulema Council issued an edit in 2005, branding it as deviant. Hundreds of followers live in camps after being driven from their homes by mobs on the island of Lombok in 2006.
Persecution escalated this April after the government said it was considering a ban.
Several mosques were torched on the dominant island of Java and on June 1, Ahmadiyah members were beaten by hundreds of hard-liners during a religious tolerance rally in the capital.


Updated : 2021-02-28 18:38 GMT+08:00