Friday, March 04, 2011

Indonesia: AJC Calls on Indonesia to Protect Religious Minority Group

AJC is calling on the Indonesian government to take steps urgently to protect the Ahmadiyah, a religious minority group, from discrimination and violence. A first step AJC recommended is to invalidate local regulations banning Ahmadi religious activities.

"Indonesian government officials at the highest levels are blatantly advocating the suppression of the Ahmadis' right to freedom of religion," said Felice Gaer, Director of AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. "This posture against Ahmadis violates Indonesia's constitution and international human rights obligations which Indonesia has committed to uphold."

The Ahmadiyah have long suffered officially-sanctioned discrimination, notably a June 2008 Indonesian government decree that forbids them from openly practicing their faith and spreading their beliefs. While identifying themselves as Muslims, they do not believe that Muhammad was the final prophet.

In recent weeks, several local governments have enacted decrees further restricting the Ahmadi right to freedom of expression. On Monday, the governor of East Java, the second-largest province in Indonesia, with a population of approximately 34 million, enacted decrees prohibiting Ahmadis from publicly manifesting their faith. Today, the governors of West Java, Indonesia's most populous province and the home to the majority of Ahmadiyah, and South Sulawesi, issued similar bans.

Senior Indonesian officials, including the Minister for Justice and Human Rights and the Minister for Religious Affairs, are defending the local laws, claiming that group's adherents were guilty of desecrating Islam and that bans against them were necessary to maintain public order. "Ahmadis insist on violating the law by spreading their beliefs," said Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar.

The East Java, West Java, and South Sulawesi decrees banning the Ahmadiyah followed a series of attacks on members of the minority group. On February 6, some 1,500 people stormed a house in an attempt to prevent approximately 20 Ahmadiyah adherents from worshipping. Three were killed and six seriously wounded as policemen looked on.

Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono publicly condemned violence against religious minorities several days later. But the president has not called for laws discriminating against the Ahmadiyah to be invalidated.

"President Yudhoyono's condemnation of violence against religious minorities is welcome, but it should come as no surprise that private citizens have interpreted official discrimination against the Ahmadiyah as a signal that repression of this minority community is permissible," said Gaer. "Until the Indonesian government invalidates all laws that label Ahmadiyah adherents as criminals, it cannot hope to curb vigilante violence against them."

SOURCE American Jewish Committee