That night, we had coffee at one of the famous cafes in Yogyakarta to just hang out and exchange stories. Shakeel Ahmad, as he usually introduces his name, is an Ahmadiyah congregation in Indonesia affiliated to the Indonesian Ahmadiyya Congregation (JAI).
Initially, I was very careful and clumsy if I had to mention Ahmadiyah in every chat. The reason is, in the last two decades the stereotype of the Ahmadiyah congregation has tended to be negative in terms of religious social life in Indonesia. The sect that was misled by MUI through MUI Fatwa No. 11/Munas VII/MUI15/2005 received an extraordinary bad stigma that made them often the victims of discrimination against hardline Islamic mass organizations. This historical setting then made me have to be careful in arranging words when I chatted with Shakeel about Ahmadiyah.
But my clumsy attitude didn't last long. Shakeel caught my gesture. "Take it easy, Haris, if you want to ask, just ask, I'm just lazy." I haha hihi just heard that. Just imagine, you are sitting next to Muslims who are arguably the most discriminated against in Indonesia. Even before the reform era. "In Ahmadiyah, the marriage must be between Ahmadiyah or outside Ahmadiyah, kil?" I open a chat with a topic that I think is cool.
"It is recommended that those from the Ahmadiyya group, mas, the problem is that there will be ongoing problems later." Shakeel then reflected on the Ahmadiyah groups around him. Although he still believes that there are some Ahmadiyah followers who are married to people outside their group, with Muhammadiyah people for example. This topic at the same time opens the veil of exclusivity of the Ahmadiyya group, even from the aspect of choosing a partner. "We are very secretive, actually. We often shut ourselves off from the outside world. Even among my classmates," he said. "So, do Ahmadiyah followers have a similar attitude?" ask me. "No sir. But most Ahmadis are like that. However, I don't seem to agree with that kind of exclusivity.” He responds.
Unlike the majority of other Ahmadis, Shakeel is very open with others. Although he did not deny that he had hidden his identity when he was in S1 college. But that happened only because of concerns that if his identity was exposed, it would affect his academic career. He was afraid that his identity would affect the fluency of his studies, even his graduation. “At first, I really closed myself to all people in my study program. I only dared to reveal my identity when I was in the final semester,” he recalls. Shakeel added, “I'm really stupid, bro, what do you want people to do with me? But the important thing is that college affairs should not be damaged because I am an Ahmadi. That's why I closed it first." When I asked about the reason for his openness, Shakeel said that if he just wanted to hang out with anyone indiscriminately, on the contrary he wanted to socialize with an environment that didn't see who he was. "Actually, I don't agree with the exclusivity of some Ahmadiyah followers. In my opinion, it's better for Ahmadi people to just hang out with anyone, expand their network, interact with different sects, but there's no need for the name Ahmadiyah, they just need to be themselves."