In Religion’s Name: Abuses against Religious Minorities in Indonesia

HRW: Feburary 28, 2013: 


Ahmadiyah An Islamic religious revivalist movement, founded in Qadian, Punjab, originating with the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908). In Arabic, Ahmadiyah means “followers of Ahmad” and adherents are sometimes called “Ahmadis.” It began its presence in the Indonesian Sumatra Island in 1925. It was legally registered in Jakarta in 1953.


We get nervous every time we go to the mosque, especially those with children. We’re afraid to bring them. We also have Sunday school which now is done [in private homes]. We are very afraid. The women often don’t come to pray if we see people in white robes [worn by several militant Islamist groups in West Java].

−Titik Sartika, the head of an Ahmadiyah women’s group in Bekasi, West Java, on intimidation that her community faces from Islamist militants, November 2011.

On February 6, 2011, in Cikeusik, a village in western Java, around 1,500 Islamist militants attacked two dozen members of the Ahmadiyah religious community with stones, sticks, and machetes. The mob shouted, “You are infidels! You are heretics!” As captured on video, local police were present at the scene but many left when the crowd began descending on the Ahmadiyah house. By the time the attack was over, three Ahmadiyah men had been bludgeoned to death.

Ahmad Masihuddin, a 25-year-old Ahmadiyah student, recalled, “They held my hands and cut my belt with a machete. They cut my shirt, pants, and undershirt. I was only in my underwear. They took 2.5 million rupiah (US$270) and my Blackberry [cell phone]. They tried to take off my underwear and cut my penis. I was laying in the fetal position. I tried to protect my face, but my left eye was stabbed. Then I heard them say, ‘He is dead, he is dead.’”

While the Cikeusik attack was particularly gruesome, it is part of a growing trend of religious intolerance and violence in Indonesia. Targets have included Ahmadis (the Ahmadiyah), Baha’is, Christians, and Shias, among others. There have also been cases of Christians in Christian-majority areas preventing Sunni Muslim mosques from being built. Affected individuals have ranged from people with permits to build houses of worship to those seeking to have their actual religion listed on their ID cards, to children bullied by teachers and other pupils at school.

In important respects, Indonesia is rightly touted for its religious diversity and tolerance. Since President Suharto was forced to step down in 1998, after more than three decades in power, inaugurating an era of greater freedom in Indonesia, viewpoints long repressed have emerged into the open. A strong thread of religious militancy is among them. As detailed in this report, the government has not responded decisively when that intolerance is expressed through acts of harassment, intimidation, and violence, which often affect freedom of expression and association, creating a climate in which more such attacks can be expected.

According to the Jakarta-based Setara Institute, which monitors religious freedom in Indonesia, there were 216 cases of violent attacks on religious minorities in 2010, 244 cases in 2011, and 264 cases in 2012.[1] The Wahid Institute, another Jakarta-based monitoring group, documented 92 violations of religious freedom and 184 incidents of religious intolerance in 2011, up from 64 violations and 134 incidents of intolerance in 2010.[2]

In researching this report, Human Rights Watch interviewed 16 members of religious minorities who had been physically assaulted by Islamist militants in seven separate incidents−four of them sustaining serious injuries. Twenty-two others had their houses of worship or own houses burned down in six separate incidents. We also summarize here many more incidents reported in the press or documented by other investigators. In addition to intimidation and physical assaults, houses of worship have been closed, construction of new worship facilities halted, and adherents of minority faiths subjected to arbitrary arrest on blasphemy and other charges.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.