Jakarta – In Yogyakarta, the cultural centre of the island of Java in Indonesia, the governor, Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, has set an interesting precedent by refusing to ban the Ahmadiyah religious group. The group was founded by a 19th century Indian religious leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed he was the promised Messiah foretold by the Prophet Muhammad. Though Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim, mainstream Muslims disagree with the belief that the Messiah has returned and therefore consider their teachings blasphemy.
The right to freedom of expression and organisation in Indonesia, granted in 1998, has provided fuel for the emergence of a wide variety of civil society groups. Unfortunately, not all of these groups reflect the positive aspirations of the Indonesian people and a small but significant number of these groups have chosen violence as a way of making their demands heard.