|The Archipelago||Fri, 05/16/2008 12:49 PM|
Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung
He said the ban was issued in order to maintain a peaceful atmosphere in the municipality following increased public protests against the group and its activities.
The ban on the group’s activities, he said, should be viewed as a protective measure for Ahmadiyah members, since the group’s teachings clashed with that of the majority of Muslims and could thus spark public disorder.
“Don’t look at it from the religious tolerance aspect. We must maintain security in this city. If they were allowed to continue with their activities here, it could lead to anarchy,” Itoc told The Jakarta Post in Cimahi.
He said complaints against the group, mostly from Muslims, stemmed from a difference in belief. Ahmadis believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be the last prophet of Islam, while the majority of Muslims believe Muhammad was the last prophet.
Itoc said these opposing beliefs have led to deep divisions between the two groups. Ahmadiyah members have reportedly been evicted from several areas by mobs of mainstream Muslims.
“We have asked Ahmadiyah followers to explain themselves to the public at the local military command, but they didn’t turn up. We fear disgruntled residents will resort to anarchy and disrupt public order,” he said.
To effect the ban, Itoc said six Ahmadiyah mosques were cordoned off to prevent the group’s members congregating, and the mosques’ signboards were taken down.
“We have notified them of this,” Itoc said.
He said he was prepared for any legal action by the Ahmadiyah in the wake of the ban, which he would revise only if the government issued a joint order from three ministers legalizing the group.
“We are not dissolving Ahmadiyah, only urging them not to engage in activities that could provoke unrest. They are welcome to mount a legal challenge. I enacted the order with the full support of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the police, the prosecutor’s office and the military,” said Itoc.
He said the local chapter of the Coordinating Board for the Supervision of Mystical Beliefs in Society (Bakor Pakem) had recommended the sect be banned on Nov. 28 last year.
He denied the decision was made to appease the government or special interest groups.
An Ahmadiyah mosque on Jl. Kolonel Masturi in Cimahi was empty on Thursday. A local resident, Herman, 26, said people rarely congregated there other than for Friday prayers.
“The congregation is small, not like at other mosques,” he said.
To avoid mob violence, Ahmadiyah authorities put up banners saying they would abide by the mayor’s order and not congregate, pending an official decision on their status from the government.
Mochammad Rafii, spokesman for the Cimahi chapter of Ahmadiyah, said the municipality’s actions were regrettable.
He said, “They should clarify the prohibitions. Is praying as a congregation prohibited? Prayer is communication between people and God. Is that a crime?” Cimahi municipality in West Java has followed Sukabumi and Kuningan regencies in banning the Islamic sect Ahmadiyah, despite no formal ban from the central government.
Mayor Itoc Tochiya issued the order on May 6, a day after the local chapter of the Coordinating Board for the Supervision of Mystical Beliefs in Society (Bakor Pakem) recommended municipal authorities ban the sect for heresy.
Head of the Cimahi chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Hafidz Sayuti, said the council urged the municipality to issue the ban “to protect sect members”.
Sukabumi and Kuningan regencies, also in West Java, earlier issued orders banning the sect. These local actions come as the central government considers a nationwide ban on Ahmadiyah.
A mosque belonging to the sect in Parakan Salak, Sukabumi, was burned down on April 28 by Muslims demanding the government outlaw the group.
More than 50 families who are followers of the sect have been evicted from their villages in Ketapang, West Nusa Tenggara, and are now staying in temporary shelters at government buildings in Mataram.
Sayuti said the Cimahi chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council had investigated the sect and found they continued to treat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet and that their teachings deviated from mainstream Islamic tenets.
“Wouldn’t it minimize social tension if they stopped their activities?” Sayuti said Wednesday.
Cimahi is home to thousands of Ahmadis, one of the biggest concentrations of members in West Java, along with Sukabumi, Kuningan, Bogor and Bandung.
The ban was greeted by protests not only by Ahmadiyah members but also by an interfaith group, AKUR, which accused municipal authorities of ignoring human rights and violating the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom.
AKUR coordinator Yaman Didu said the ban was contrary to the Constitution, which protects the rights of citizens and enshrines freedom of religion.
“We demand the mayor revoke the decision and retract statements published in the media,” Didu said.
Head of the Bandung region Ahmadiyah youth wing, Zaki Firdaus, said the mayor had acted arbitrarily.
“We believe we have been carrying out our responsibilities as good citizens, so please treat us correctly,” Zaki said.
He urged the central government to settle this issue fairly and wisely, in line with the Constitution and human rights.