Hard-line Islamists shuttered an Ahmadiyah mosque after reportedly threatening to burn it down on Sunday in the latest example of religious intolerance to plague West Java.
The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) sealed a mosque in Sukatali village, in Sumedang, earlier this week after accusing the small congregation of breaking a controversial decree barring Ahmadiyah Muslims from proselytizing their religion. The decree, signed in 2008 by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Attorney General’s Office, with the support of the West Java governor’s office, has long been used as an excuse to oppress the minority religion.
Firdaus Mubarik, spokesman for the Indonesia Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI), said the congregation was doing little more than holding regular prayer services.
“They only used [the mosque] to pray,” he said. “It had not even been used for Koran study groups.”
This particular mosque, which served the village’s 34-person Ahmadiyah community, has existed since the 1940s, according to Sukatali village chief Ade Ratna Wulan.
“They have been here for generations,” Ade told the local newspaper Kabar Priangan.”I don’t know since when, but a 70-year old Ahmadiyah leader said that when he was born here, the mosque already existed.”
The Sumedang branch of the FPI denied claims they sealed the mosque.
“For sure, what has been done by the FPI members was not sealing,” branch chief Muhammad Nurtold the local newspaper Radar Sumedang. “Sealing or shutting down [a house of worship] is the authority of the Sumedang district government.”
The hard-liners said they had previously reached an agreement with the Ahmadiyah to stop using the mosque. Since the mosque was still in use, they decided to take matters into their own hands and shutter the building.
“We agree today to fully seal the building that has been used as a house of worship by the Ahmadiyah,” one FPI member told Radar Sumedang.
Spreading Islamist influence
Organizations like the FPI have been allowed to operate with impunity in the historically conservative province of West Java, where the government, led by the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), has been accused of bowing to pressure from radical groups.
The FPI, and affiliate organizations, have been behind several mosque and church closures in West Java, including the destruction of a Batak protestant church in Taman Sari, Bekasi district. That church was tore down by district officials before a crowd of cheering FPI members.
In other incidents, like the attack on an Ahmadiyah mosque in Tasikmalaya, the FPI reportedly destroyed the building themselves.
The latest incident, in Sumedang, raised concern that the FPI’s influence was spreading to the northern parts of the province.
“Cases like this in West Java in the past happened in the southern part, like in Cianjur and Sukabumi, but rarely in the north,” Firdaus said. “But then it happened in Kuningan, in central West Java, and now it is moving north to areas that are not really very religious.
“The hard-line group is extending its movement.”
No help from the government
Indonesia’s beleaguered Ahmadiyah community approached the government in the mid-2000s to ask for help. The government’s response, a 2008 decree that protects the Ahmadiyah’s right to exist, was then used to support crackdowns across West Java.
The decree allows Ahmadiyah to practice their religion, but opens the group up to penalties if they are accused of spreading their beliefs to mainstream Muslims.
“[The] joint ministerial decree has no legitimate place in our legal system,” said Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of Setara Institute. “Moreover the decree is vague and can result in different interpretations.”
JAI called the decree little more than a government effort to dissolve the religion.
“The government just want to force their opinion and a one-side solution,” Firdaus said. “They’re not ready to provide a real solution. They only want to dissolve Ahmadiyah with the decree.”
That notion, a complete ban on Ahmadiyah Muslims, would likely gain support in the halls of the West Java Governor’s Mansion. West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan once said problems with the Ahmadiyah would stop being a problem once the belief disappeared.
The Setara Institute placed the blame on government inaction.
“It’s the obligation of the government to protect the rights of its citizens and guarantee their freedom to worship,” Bonar said.
A brief timeline of attacks on Ahmadiyah in West Java and Banten
Oct. 25, 2002: The At-Taqwa and Al-Hidayah mosques in Kuningan, West Java, are destroyed by a mob.
2005: A mob attacks an Ahmadiyah village in Neglasari, Cianjur, West Java, damaging three mosques and several homes.
Aug. 19, 2005: The Istiqomah mosque in Sedasari village. Majalengka, West Java, is sealed by the local government following an edict from the from Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) banning the Ahmadiyah.
2008: The joint ministerial decree banning Ahmadiyah from spreading their beliefs is signed.
2008: The Al Furqon mosque and the Ahmadiyah Islamic school are set ablaze in Parakan Salak, Sukabumi, West Java.
July 27, 2010: The Kuningan Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) seal one mosque and several smaller houses of worship in an anti-Ahmadiyah crackdown.
Oct. 10, 2010: An Ahamdiyah mosque and boarding school are torched by local residents in Cisalada, Bogor, West Java.
December 2010: Members of a local Islamic boarding school rampage through an Ahmadiyah community, destroying a mosque in Warnasari village, Sukabumi.
Feb. 6, 2011: Three Ahamdiyah members were brutally killed in a mob attack in Cikeusik, Banten, by men shouting “God is great” and “Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill Ahmadiyah!” Video of the attack was posted to YouTube, sparking international condemnation and calls for harsh penalties for those involved.
April 2011: Government officials seal the Al-Mubarok mosque in Sindang Barang, Bogor.
July 2011: The Serang District Court sentences 12 people to six months in jail for igniting a conflict that resulted in someone’s death over their roles in the Cikeusik killings. The verdict was called a failure of Indonesia by Ahmadiyah members.
August 2011: Deden Sujana, an Ahmadiyah member from Cikeusik, is jailed for six months for refusing a police order to leave his home the mob killings.
Feb. 2012: Nurhidayah mosque, in Cipeuyeum village, Cianjur, West Java, is destroyed by local residents.
April 2012: Baitul Rahim mosque in Cipakat village, Tasikmalaya, is sealed by local residents.
April 2012: A mob ransack an Ahmadiyah mosque in Singaparna, West Java, hurling Molotov cocktails at the building.
March 2013: The Bekasi Satpol PP seals the Al-Misbah mosque in Pondok Gede, Bekasi, West Java, locking several Ahamdiyah members inside.
July 2013: An-Nasir mosque, in Neglasari, is shuttered by local ulema.