Monday, January 31, 2022
The demolition of the Ahmadiyya congregation mosque in Balai Harapan, Sintang, West Kalimantan, must not be allowed to happen. Apart from violating the constitution, the demolition threatens the rights of minority groups. Ironically, this arbitrary act was carried out by the Sintang Regency Government, which is supposed to guarantee freedom of religion and worship for all residents in its territory.
The demolition of the Ahmadiyah mosque was carried out on January 29, 2022. The Sintang District Civil Service Police Unit dismantled the dome of the mosque after a Warning Letter (SP3) from the Sintang District Government regarding the demolition was ignored by the Ahmadiyah congregation. The house of worship will be converted into a residence or meeting hall. Not only does it violate the 1945 Constitution, the forced demolition is contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified.https://0538a35deddc32c711cac87ae42d98e1.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
That’s why, the central government must reprimand the Regent of Sintang. The pretext that the mosque building is not in accordance with its designation seems discriminatory and far-fetched. Moreover, it was later revealed that the mosque was not the only house of worship without a building permit (IMB) in the area. The 2006 Joint Regulation of the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Religion also stipulates that disputes over places of worship must be resolved through deliberation.
The demolition shows that the Sintang district government is more subject to mass pressure. Since 2004, the Ahmadiyah congregation in Sintang has been rejected by the public. This refusal has intensified throughout 2021. On August 14, the Sintang district government sealed the mosque. However, the masses who were still dissatisfied set the house of worship on fire on September 3. A total of 21 defendants in that case have been sentenced to 4 months and 15 days.
However, the arson case, as well as the punishment for the perpetrators, did not end this dark episode. Instead of looking for a solution that guarantees freedom of worship, the district government issued a warning letter asking the Ahmadiyya congregation to dismantle their own mosque. After the first two letters were ignored, they then sent a third letter. When the time limit passed, the Satpol PP acted arbitrarily to dismantle the dome of the mosque.
The incident in Sintang is like repeating the old pattern that often occurs in various regions. Government officials often prohibit the activities of minority groups on the pretext of preventing attacks from the majority group or in order to maintain social harmony. Instead of preventing the aggression of the majority group, the government has actually participated in suppressing and discriminating against minority groups. The case in Sintang extends the list of abuses by government officials against this group.
This incident is also proof that the disbanding of intolerant groups, such as the Islamic Defenders Front and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, does not necessarily reduce violence against minority groups. What has been experienced by the Ahmadiyah congregation shows that the repression of hardline groups does not have an impact on the spread of religious freedom. The pressure and violence were even facilitated by the government itself.
What should be expected from the government is not arbitrariness or repression, but courage to protect and safeguard the rights of minorities. This can be started by revoking the 2008 Joint Decree of the Minister of Religion, the Minister of Home Affairs, and the Attorney General on Ahmadiyah. Decisions that prohibit the Ahmadiyah congregation from broadcasting and practicing their beliefs openly are often an excuse for intolerant groups to carry out persecution. As long as this decree is still in effect, Ahmadiyah adherents in Indonesia will continue to experience discrimination.
The government must ensure that the persecution of the Ahmadiyya congregation does not happen again. Without any effort to expand tolerance, the religious rights of minority groups will always be marginalized in this country.