Tears in Manis Lor

The government asks Ahmadiyah followers to discontinue their activities. It is felt that this decision violates the Constitution.

THE advice dispensed during the imam’s sermon was for the members of the congregation to exemplify the behavior and attitude of the Prophet Muhammad. This advice made Siti, a member of the congregation at the Friday prayer in Manis Lor, Jalaksana district, Kuningan, West Java, cry. “We have the same Prophet, Muhammad, but why have we been outlawed,” she lamented while walking back to her home.

In Manis Lor, a village where the majority of residents are followers of the Ahmadiyah movement, the Friday congregational prayers are conducted in the homes of residents. Their mosque was sealed shut by the local government at the end of last year, after it was damaged en masse by the surrounding Muslim community. In this place, women also join the weekly service.

The reason for Siti’s sorrow, and that of other Ahmadiyah followers, was the recommendation of the Coordination Agency to Oversee People’s Beliefs. On Wednesday last week, this government-formed body asked the follower of this group—which has been in Indonesia since 1925—to desist from their activities. If not, the group, which was formed based on a decision of the Minister of Justice in 1955, will be disbanded.

This body is led by the Attorney General, with members representing the police, military, and officials from the Department of Home Affairs, Department of Culture, Department of Religious Affairs, and the State Intelligence Agency. Last Wednesday’s meeting was an evaluation of how well the Ahmadiyah followed its 12-point statement, which was made upon the insistence of a number of Islamic organizations and the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), which was made three months ago.

Last January, Ahmadiyah leaders emphasized that, among other things, Muhammad is the final Prophet, while Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was only a teacher and founder of the Ahmadiyah. Meanwhile, the Tadzkirah book was not claimed to be a sacred text. The Coordination Agency gave the Ahmadiyah followers three months to act according to their statement. They observed the activities of their congregations in 33 regencies and 55 communities, and met with 227 Ahmadiyah followers.

The results were disappointing. According to Whisnu Broto, Deputy Attorney General for Intelligence, who was the Coordination Agency’s manager, Ahmadiyah followers still consider Mirza a prophet and the Tadzkirah a divine text. The congregation also considers their prayers to be invalid if they take someone outside of the Ahmadiyah as their imam or prayer leader. This is why Atho Muzahir, chairman of the team formed by the Coordination Agency, feels that the Ahmadiyah has deviated from the teachings of Islam.

The body’s recommendation was unanimous. “Everyone agreed,” said Whisnu. When the recommendation was made, the police protected Ahmadiyah areas. In Manis Lor, a platoon of police was standing by. Over 3,000 of the village’s 4,500 residents are Ahmadiyah followers. “We are uneasy. We don’t know what will happen to us,” said Sarta, 60, a resident of the village.

Violence took place in Singaparna, Tasikmalaya, West Java. Here, the Ahmadiyah mosque was attacked by hundreds of people. According to Depi Suryanadin, the group’s spokesman, the attack was on Friday afternoon last week. The attackers threw stones and sticks. Glass and tiles were broken.

There were no victims because the mosque was empty when it was attacked. The mosque, which can accommodate 100 people, is still used for worship. However, Ahmadiyah followers only use it for the required five daily prayers. Other activities, such as religious study sessions, have been stopped. This was done to avoid uncontrollable mass protest, such as has repeatedly taken place at their communities in Kampus Parung, Manis Lor, and Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara.

Those standing up for the Ahmadiyah regret the interference of the government as done through the Coordination Agency’s recommendation. “Faith cannot be put on trial. This is not in the spirit of the Constitution,” said Jan Husein Lamady, head of the Ahmadiyah advocacy team. “The state cannot and may not interfere in matters of individual decision,” said Rusdi Marpaung, Director of the Imparsial NGO. He urged that the Coordination Agency be disbanded because it does not fit with the times.

Abdul Manan, Ivansyah, Rini Kustiani

Tempo Magazine, No. 34/VIII/22-28 April, 2008

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