The Jakarta Globe:
Data from the Jakarta-based NGO Setara Institute calculated nearly 130 violations of religious freedom nationwide from January to June 2012. Most happened in West Java against minority religious groups such as the Ahmadiyah, an Islamic sect that shares many Sunni beliefs with some 500,000 adherents nationwide.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2012 report recorded that at least 50 Ahmadiyah places of worship have been vandalized and 36 forcibly closed since 2008, even though the Indonesian constitution guarantees freedom of religious expression.
But guaranteeing this constitutional freedom has been difficult for the state, said Harkrisnowo. “The central government needs to be more firm on this issue.”
In February 2011 a 22-year-old Ahmadi, Ahmad Masihuddin, was visiting a village outside Jakarta when an Islamic fundamentalist group, which does not recognize Ahmadis as Muslim, attacked Ahmadiyah followers in the village.
“The mob was at least 1,000-strong. We [Ahmadis in the village] were outnumbered, so we ran, but I was captured,” said Masihuddin. “They dragged me through a rice field, struck me in the waist with a machete and hit me with bamboo. They said they wanted to cut off my genitals.”
It was only when Masihuddin called out to his assailants that he was a Muslim that the attack stopped.
“They thought I was one of them, a Sunni,” he said.
Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam in Indonesia.
Three of Masihuddin’s friends were killed in the attack. Perpetrators were sentenced to 3-6 months in prison, which Masihuddin said was not commensurate with the crime.
Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, director-general for human rights at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, acknowledged the sentences were too lenient and suggested that law enforcers need to do more to protect minorities.
“On the ground there are now fundamentalist groups that blatantly threaten minorities,” she said. “The police have difficulties containing these groups, but they must try to deal with this violence.”
In 2008 the government issued a joint ministerial decree banning Ahmadis from disseminating their beliefs on the basis the reformist movement “deviated” from mainstream Islam in its teachings.
Hard-line groups have used the decree to justify attacks against Ahmadis, but Harkrisnowo said the decree was issued to protect Ahmadis.
“They aren’t allowed to publicly assemble for their own protection because if they do, they may incite violence against them,” she said.
But even without assembling for worship, they are still attacked, said Malik Saifurrahman, an Ahmadi from the island of Lombok. Since 2002, his family house has been destroyed on four separate occasions — before it was completely burnt down in 2006.
“There were many attacks on houses, and about 300 Ahmadis were forced to move,” said Saifurrahman, who added he did not know the identity of the attackers.
“I have now moved to Jakarta for study, but my family lives in a government refuge in Mataram [created] for Ahmadis who have had their homes burned down,” he said. “At first the government provided us with food and water, but now that has stopped.”
Harkrisnowo said she did not know whether the authorities will re-house displaced Ahmadis.