The small Ahmadiyah community is living in fear

Jakarta, June 10. 2008 (vaticans.org) - After the joint ministerial decree barring them from any activity in Indonesia, the small Ahmadiyah community is living in fear.  The Muslim sect, considered heretical by the extremists, is at the centre of serious social tensions in the country, leading to fears of an explosion of civil war.

The government has intervened by restricting the community, but not outlawing it, as the Islamic fanatics would like.  And now, the 500,000 Ahmadiyah present in the archipelago, the object of persecution and violence for years, do not feel safe.  They are not being reassured by the presence of the police, who have been deployed to certain sensitive areas with the order to prevent potential extremist attacks.  The vagueness of the government provisions, in fact, contributes to creating a climate of witch hunting.  "What exactly are we not allowed to do?", asks one Ahmadiyah of Cileduk, "to spread Islam? To pray?".  The same perplexity is seen in Kuningan, Bali, Solo. In Sukabumi, West Java, in order not to fall victim to fundamentalist attacks, some families are putting signs on their doors, "We are not Ahmadiyah Muslims".  The episode recalls a sad chapter in recent Indonesian history.  In 1998, during the bloody anti-Chinese revolts, any Indonesians of Chinese origin were forced to put up similar signs - "We are Muslims and Indonesian natives" - in order to save their lives.

The joint ministerial decree has drawn a clear separation between the positions of the radicals, advanced mainly by the Islamic Defence Front (FPI), and those of the moderates, represented by the National Awakening Party (PKB) of former president Gus Dur, who support religious freedom in respect of constitutional values.

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