Religious Freedom in Indonesia Under Siege
Escalating religious persecution and an increase in attacks on religious minorities has raised serious concerns about religious intolerance in Indonesia. Some of the most appalling incidents of religious intolerance and violence to occur there in recent memory have been witnessed.
On 6th February, three Ahmadi Muslims were dragged outside a villa, stripped and bludgeoned to death by hundreds of extremists in a brutal and bloody attack in Cikeusik, a small village south of Banten in Indonesia. Five others were injured. A mob of around 1000 attacked the Ahmadi Muslims who numbered no more than 30. The assailants pounced in a pre-planned attack whilst the police stood by and watched the angry crowd mercilessly beat these three Ahmadi Muslims with sticks and rocks until their lifeless bodies became so disfigured that they were initially unrecognisable.
Local children stood by and applauded, whilst others raised slogans of ‘Allahu Akbar’, that is ‘God is Greatest’. The pure name of Islam and of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) had once again been slandered and defamed in the most grotesque and unjust manner.
The horrific video clips that appeared on YouTube shows us prejudice of the worst kind. The utter viciousness and barbarity of the attacks has shocked many observers. TV channels either refused to show the footage or blurred out the video as it was deemed too graphic to air.
The three Ahmadi Muslims who were martyred in this attack were Tubaqus Chandra Mubarak (34), Ahmad Warsono (38) and Roni Pesarani (35).
This most recent attack in Banten province is the culmination of a recent pattern of escalating violence against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Indonesia. The violence in effect has the tacit support of the government through a Joint Ministerial Decree enacted in June 2008 that banned Ahmadi Muslims from preaching. This was carried out to appease the anti-Ahmadiyya demands of extremist groups such as Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). This decree has emboldened religious extremists to persecute Ahmadis with impunity all over the country.
In addition to the attacks on Ahmadi Muslims, there have been several attacks on Christians and other minorities as well. Just two days after the Cikeusik incident, the seed of extremism was once again displayed, this time in the Indonesian city of Java. Violent clashes broke out after a court verdict in which a Christian accused of spreading anti-Muslim leaflets was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Protestors, who ignorantly held that their actions were in defence of Islam, demanded the death penalty. First, they attacked the court where the trial had been held and then thousands went on to attack three churches, a Christian orphanage and a health centre.
The shocking and barbaric nature of both these attacks by people who purport to represent Islam is an affront to all true Muslims who understand that the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) taught of love, compassion and mercy throughout his life. In fact, the Holy Prophet(saw) and his Companions left us with the most outstanding examples of conduct and tolerance. Instead of applying these beautiful traditions, some Muslim groups and individuals are continuing on a path of hatred, persecution and killings. They act not out of love for Islam but out of a love for that which Islam condemns. Those involved in terrorism are invariably motivated by a desire for power and wealth rather than any noble pursuit.
After the Cikeusik attacks, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said:
“Whenever such attacks occur the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat both in Indonesia and worldwide always displays patience and seeks solace not in revenge or violence but through prayers to God Almighty and this will always remain the case. It is however certain that those who have inflicted these cruelties will be answerable to God Almighty and will have to face His punishment.”
Both the Indonesian and international media have almost uniformly condemned the attacks on both the Ahmadi Muslims and the Christians and for this they deserve praise. In respect of this Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad said:
“Media outlets like the Jakarta Post, Jakarta Globe and many international organisations have strongly condemned this attack and tried to influence the Indonesian government accordingly. The media and intellectual classes in Indonesia have had the courage to make a stand against the cruelty and because of this there remains hope that their society will progress. If only such courage would develop amongst the media and educated classes of Pakistan.”
Whether a Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu or Atheist or a person of any other faith is attacked, it is wrong and must be condemned unequivocally. Tolerance and mutual respect are the cornerstones of any successful society.
We sincerely hope that the Government of Indonesia will take firm action to eradicate the menace and evil of extremism. The Government needs to protect members of all minorities and religious groups. One of the most painful and regrettable points of these recent attacks is that they were both avoidable. People must be educated from a young age that although there is always room for ideological differences, ultimately we are all the Creation of God and must reconcile our differences through love and respect.