In this series of articles Sundanese intellectuals reflect on the Cikeusik tragedy and see alarming realities behind a brutal killing
Source: Inside Indonesia:
The history of increasing difficulties facing the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI) can be traced in the pages of Inside Indonesia. The origins of the Indonesian branch of this Muslim minority movement were explained by Munawar Ahmad in edition 89 (Jan-Mar 2007). The movement originated in late nineteenth century India (contemporary Pakistan), was first proselytised in the Netherlands Indies in the 1920s, and currently has around 500,000 Indonesian followers. One sub-group within Ahmadiyah attributes revelation to its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (d. 1908), thereby taking a doctrinal position that has attracted disapproval from orthodox Sunni Muslims who argue that divine revelation ended with the Prophet Muhammad.
Disapproval towards Ahmadiyah has been expressed constantly in Indonesia since the group was established there, but threats and violence against the group’s members and infrastructure have increased alarmingly in recent years. In edition 85 (Jan-Mar 2005), Akh Muzakki described a number of such conflicts occurring in West Java, and also examined the role of the Indonesian Council of Scholars (MUI) in the violence. The MUI had released a fatwa asserting that Ahmadiyah’s teachings were not Islamic in 1980, at a time when the Suharto government granted no space for activist organisations to implement programs of action. But in 2005, when the MUI republished its fatwa, Muslims were enjoying far greater freedom of expression, and in this climate, Muzzaki argues the fatwa played a role in encouraging violence against the group.
Defending freedom of religion
Few Indonesians have taken issue with the MUI’s disapproval of Ahmadiyah, but some have defended the group, arguing that there is an important principle at stake. The Indonesian constitution, they argue, protects freedom of religion. As Joanne McMillan wrote in edition 94 (Oct-Dec 2008), the resulting conflict has polarised society. On 1 June, 2008, supporters of religious freedom gathered at a rally held at Jakarta’s national monument. This date is celebrated annually as the day on which Sukarno delivered a speech in which he outlined his version of the state ideology known as Pancasila. The demonstrators, who included influential religious leaders, were attacked by thugs belonging to the very same groups that had carried out threatening actions against Ahmadiyah. The violence, which resulted in injuries to 19 people, shocked many Indonesians, and led to the imprisonment of members of the vigilante groups.
It is not only public apathy that has placed Ahmadiyah in such a vulnerable position. Indonesia’s politicians are also wary of the implications of the Ahmadiyah case. As Bernhard Platszdasch reported in edition 97 (July-Sep 2009), the country’s mainstream parties are eager to capture support from pious voters, and their positioning on the Ahmadiyah issue reflects a desire to accommodate them. ………. Read more