Controversy over Indonesian Islamic sect

The World

Five men pray in this room in West Java. Standing guard outside are dozens of police. The men are from the Indonesian Ahmadiya community, which has around 200,000 members. This man is one of them and he says they’re worried that once the police leave they’ll be attacked again. In a mosque across the road, this woman says the Ahmadiya sect should be banned. Sentiments like that prompted the burning down of an Ahmadiya mosque in a village late last month. Up the hill from the mosque a sign hangs on another mosque which reads: Ahmadiya return to Islam. This man says people have lived in harmony with Ahmadiya for years, but he believes the Ahmadiya needs to give up their beliefs. The Ahmadiya were founded in India in the late 1800s by a man who claimed to be a figure expected by some Muslims to mark the end of the world. This puts the sect outside mainstream Islam which believes Mohammed is the one and only prophet. The sect is banned in Pakistan and now the Indonesian President is facing pressure to do the same. There was one recent protest in the country’s capitol which chanted �Outlaw Ahmadiya.� This Ahmadiya believer watched the protest in horror and fears for his life. The State religious advisory board ruled that the sect has deviated from Islamic principles and should be outlawed. This has raised beliefs that religious freedom, as guaranteed in the constitution in Indonesia, is under threat. A coordinator of modern Islamic scholars is one of them. Indonesia’s two largest Muslim organizations oppose calls to ban Ahmadiya, meanwhile the country’s large Christian and Hindu populations watch on nervously, fearing their rights will be the next to go. This debate goes to the heart of a larger debate about the future of Islam in Indonesia. Over the last ten years, a hardline Muslim fringe has been pressuring the government. This analyst says the president is caught in a political game ahead of the 2009 Presidential elections. Many in the West often hail Indonesia as a Muslim nation with a successful democracy that respects religious diversity. But this best selling author is worried about what she sees. Back in the earlier village, Ahmadiya children recite the Koran in front of their burnt down mosque. This child says she’s very scared.

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