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Regional chiefs in some Indonesian provinces are moving ahead with plans to either ban completely or restrict the activities of Ahmadiyah followers in their areas, claiming the Muslim sect has stirred up community conflicts.
The mayor of Samarinda, Sjahrie Jaang, said he would curb all Ahmadiyah activities in the East Kalimantan capital and would also soon move to close down its mosques.
“The regulation on halting the activities of the Ahmadiyah was signed today,” he told reporters after a meeting with local police, religious leaders and community representatives on Friday.
He said he would meet with Ahmadiyah leaders in the area to enforce the regulation, advising them to halt their activities and close their houses of worship.
“This decision was taken as a form of firm action by the city administration on the Ahmadiyah issue in order to maintain security by preventing potential sources of conflict in society,” the mayor said.
When asked about the size of the Ahmadiyah community in Samarinda, Sjahrie said it was “insignificant” but if no firm action was taken immediately, it was likely to grow. “This is why we need to stop their activities now,” he said.
Representatives of the Indonesian Council of Ulema in Samarinda lauded the administration’s plans.
“The mayor’s decision is a relief to us all,” said Zaini Naim, the local chapter’s chairman. “This will stop the people from taking the law into their own hands.”
According to M. Faozal, a spokesman for West Nusa Tenggara’s provincial government, the governor was about to issue a bylaw that would outlaw the spread of Ahmadiyah teachings. “Ahmadiyah often triggers conflict in many regions, including West Nusa Tenggara,” the spokesman said on Friday. “The governor wants to prevent conflict; We’re calling on the Ahmadiyah to stop causing conflict.”
Limiting the Ahmadiyah community’s activities was necessary as a way to prevent potential conflicts, Faozal said, adding that the government hoped its followers would return to the “rightful path of Islam.”
Some Muslim leaders in West Nusa Tenggara said they welcomed the plan and hoped the governor would issue the regulation as soon as possible to prevent more clashes.
“They [Ahmadis] persist that there is no difference between Ahmadiyah and Islam, while there is a significant difference,” Saiful Muslim, head of the provincial branch of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), said. “No dialogue held with them has produced any solution to the problem.”
Some Muslim groups have accused Ahmadiyah of heresy, saying that they profess their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be the final prophet — a tenet that runs against Islamic beliefs that reserve that claim for the Prophet Muhammad.
Ahmadiyah community leaders, however, say that it has never claimed Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet but rather as the promised messiah, a concept that is accepted in mainstream Islam.
Saiful also claimed that Ahmadiyah followers refused to integrate with surrounding communities, which caused anxiety among their neighbors.
According to Saiful, the MUI also disagreed with a plan to forcibly relocate a group of Ahmadis to a remote area in Lombok’s southwest, saying that such a policy would only cause more conflict.
“I fear that once they are moved to Sekotong they will be attacked by the people there,” he said. “It is better for them to integrate with their neighbors and assimilate to accepted norms.”
East Nusa Tenggara’s governor, Frans Lebu Raya, meanwhile, said residents should ignore calls to take part in a rally in Kupang over the weekend to express solidarity with the besieged Ahmadiyah community in other parts of the country. The governor said the call was a hoax instigated by agitators.
In Jakarta, Edwin Pamimpin Situmorang, deputy attorney general for intelligence, said that his office was still examining a 2008 government regulation that put restrictions on the Ahmadiyah community. “We are still examining the joint decree on Ahmadiyah to assess its effectiveness, and how the recent incidents could have happen,” he said.
“In my opinion, it hasn’t been effective yet because most people do not fully understand its contents. For instance, there is a view that the decree bans Ahmadiyah, while in fact it doesn’t.”
The decree was issued in June 2008 by the Attorney General’s Office and ministries of religious and home affairs. While it does not expressly ban the existence of Ahmadiyah, it does stop Ahmadiyah followers from spreading information contrary to mainstream Muslim interpretation.