Minority Islamic sect under fire in Indonesia

MANISLOR, Indonesia – A minority Islamic sect told followers Friday to prepare for war after rock-throwing mobs attacked one of their mosques in central Indonesia, calling its members heretics.

The weeklong violence in Manislor, a village in West Java province, peaked Thursday after more than 500 hard-liners from the Islamic Defenders Front, known as FPI, clashed with 3,000 Ahmadiyah sect followers.

At least eight people were injured, including three police.

“We have to defend ourselves and our mosques,” said Deden Sujana, who heads security for the sect, saying hard-liners have “gone too far.”

“We call on Ahmadiyah followers to fight against them in the name of Allah,” Sujana said.

Indonesia, a secular state of 235 million, has more Muslims than any other in the world.

Most people practice a moderate form of the faith, but a small but vocal extremist fringe has gained influence in recent years because the government relies heavily on Muslim parties in parliament.

Ahmadiyah, which has roughly 200,000 members, is considered deviant by conservatives because it does not recognize Muhammad as the final prophet. Perpetrators of violence against the sect often go unpunished.

Tensions started building around Manislor after local authorities sealed Ahmadiyah’s An-Nur mosque, saying they had violated a 2008 government decree that stops short of banning the group but orders members to stop practicing.

That gave FPI, hard-liners known for attacking nightclubs and bars, the unspoken go-head to target the sect.

Mobs threw rocks over the wall. Police, who are bracing for more violence over the weekend, responded by firing tear gas.

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