The closure of an Ahmadiyya place of worship by local authorities in West Java is a disturbing and arbitrary move, and just the latest example of ongoing repression of religious minorities in Indonesia, Amnesty International said.
The government in Ciamis district, West Java, yesterday shut down a place of worship belonging to the minority Ahmadiyya community, citing the need to “maintain religious harmony” and to stop the spreading of a “deviant interpretation of Islamic teaching”. Earlier this week hundreds of supporters of hardline Islamist groups had protested outside the local district chief’s office demanding the place of worship’s closure.
“The closure of the Ahmadiyya place of worship is arbitrary and a clear violation of the right of every person to manifest his or her religion. It should be re-opened immediately, in particular as Ramadan is only a few days away. Instead of bowing to pressure from hardline Islamist groups, the local authorities should do more to protect Ahmadiyya and other religious minorities,” said Papang Hidayat, Amnesty International’s Indonesia Researcher.
“Unfortunately this is just the latest in a series of attempts to restrict the Ahmadiyya community. They live with the daily threat of attacks or harassment. The authorities do little to prevent such attacks, and have enacted discriminatory legislation and taken repressive measures such as the closure of this place of worship.”
The Ahmadiyya community in Indonesia has faced harassment and discrimination for decades. Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of intimidation and violence against Ahmadiyya by hardline Islamist groups. These have included mob violence and burnings of Ahmadiyya places of worship and homes, at times leading to their long-term displacement.
Attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia have intensified over the past years, with the government often failing to provide adequate protection to communities at risk, or to hold perpetrators to account.
Those who commit acts of violence against religious minorities are rarely punished and the authorities often blame the minority for “deviant views” when attacks occur.
Ahead of presidential elections on 9 July, Amnesty International is urging Indonesia’s political leaders to do more to stamp out religious discrimination and repression.
“The administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has failed to stem the growing tide of repression against religious minorities. We urge both candidates in the 9 July elections to clearly state that they will respect and protect the human rights of all Indonesians, regardless of their religion,” said Papang Hidayat.
The Ahmadiyya are a religious group who consider themselves a part of Islam. Many Muslim groups disagree, arguing that the Ahmadiyya do not adhere to the accepted Islamic belief system.
The local Ciamis government justified yesterday’s closure of the place of worship by referring to a 2008 Joint Ministerial Decree, which forbids the Ahmadiyya community from promoting their activities and spreading their religious teachings.
The same law has been used to close a number of Ahmadiyya places of worship recently, including two others in West Java province in December 2013 (Depok) and May 2014 (Bekasi). In October 2013, a mob descended on an Ahmadiyya place of worship in Tasikmalaya district in West Java, forcing its closure.
The 2008 Joint Ministerial Decree is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that must be repealed immediately. It has been used across Indonesia to deny the Ahmadiyya community their rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom of expression, and to justify attacks against them.