Indonesia: Defamation of Ahmadiyah Denomination

June 23rd, 2008

Submission for the Report of the Secretary to the General Assembly on GA-Resolution 62/154

„Combating Defamation of Religions”


The Government must act upon its international commitments to human rights, religious freedom and protection of minorities

Anti-Amadiyah demonstration in Jakarta

Anti-Amadiyah demonstration in Jakarta

The Islamic denomination Ahmadiyah is suffering discrimination from both the Indonesian government and violent groups in civil society. During recent years violent assaults have been committed by civilians. In April 2008 the Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society, a state agency appointed to monitor the practice of religious groups in Indonesia, recommended banning the sect. The Government of Indonesia (GoI) reacted in June 2008 by issuing a decree which violates the group’s external religious freedom. While Ahmadiyah members had co-existed peacefully with other religious denominations for decades, the Indonesian Ulema’s Council issued two fatwas against the sect in 1980 and 2005, the first denoting the Ahmadiyah a deviant sect and the second recommending the group be banned. This defamation of the Ahmadiyah prompted an upsurge in horizontal violence against institutions and individual members of the group. The state failed to prevent this violence or prosecute the perpetrators. The GoI has to act upon the obligations arising from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights especially on the obligation to protect public freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief. It should comply with the references drafted in General Assembly Council Resolution 62/154 of December 18, 2007.

Physical assaults on businesses, cultural centres and places of worship

About 200.000 persons adhere to the Ahmadiyah belief in Indonesia. They have been practicing their belief since 1924 and the group was accorded legal status in 1953. The sect was founded in today’s Pakistan in 1889 as a reform movement within Islam. Its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad broke with some of the characteristics of orthodox Islamic teaching but not with the central Islamic principles of belief. Critics blame the group for not acknowledging Mohammed as the last Prophet. The Indonesian news magazine Tempo counted almost 20 violent attacks targeting institutions, places of worship and homes of the Ahmadiyah group in the provinces of West Java, West Nusa Tenggara, South Sulawesi and Kalimantan. The most recent assaults, which took place in April and June 2008, led to a Mosque being burned in Sukabumi (West Java) and another sealed off in Cianjur (West Java). On June 1, 2008 supporters of the denomination were attacked during a peaceful rally advocating religious freedom by hundreds of aggressors, many of them members of the Islamic Defenders Front and Islam Command Troop. They were armed with bamboo sticks, swords and spears. As the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB) stated in the Indonesian newspaper Jakarta Post 70 people were injured in the attack, and, according to Human Rights Watch, several Ahmadiyah members were hospitalized. Violence against the Ahmadiyah group rose following the issue of a fatwa by the Indonesian Ulema’s Council recommending the ban of the Ahmadiyah and denoting the group a deviant sect. Targets of the mob attacks have been mosques, the educational centre of the Ahmadiyah Congregation Mubarak Campus in Parung, (West Java) residential areas as well as homes of preachers and followers of the domination. The attack on Mubarak Campus in June/July 2005 by hundreds of assaulters left 16 Ahmadiyah members injured. Most of the mob attacks caused damage of property, in some cases mosques and homes were destroyed completely. Ahmadiyah members in Bulukumba (South Sulawesi) were intimidated in 2006 by an anonymous flyer circulated which called on residents to drive out Ahmadiyah. In Lingsar (Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara) such as in Pancor (Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara) hundreds of Ahmadiyah followers had to be evacuated after attacks on their housing complexes. According to the Indonesian Newspaper Jakarta Post 192 victims of the Lingsar attack in 2006 where more than 300 houses were destroyed, still live in a refugee centre in Mataram (Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara). Ahmadiyah members have asked for asylum with German and Australian consulates in Bali. In all cases, law-enforcement authorities and the judiciary failed to prevent the attacks or ensure the prosecution of the perpetrators.

Use of print, audio-visual and electronic media to incite act of violence

Members of the Islamic Defenders Front circulated a videotape showing the group’s secretary-general Sobri Lubis. In the video tape he urged followers to kill adherents of Ahmadiyah. In a second videotape released at the beginning of June the leader of Islam Command Troop Munarman who allegedly organised the attack on a rally supporting Ahmadiyah on June 1, 2008 expressed his disposition to use violence putting pressure on the GoI to ban the sect.

State reacts with a virtual ban of Ahmadiyah and fails to protect its members against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion

As the UN Committee against Torture has noted in its concluding observations at its 40th session from April 28 to May 16, 2008, police and other authorities do not „provide Ahmadiyah with adequate protection” nor „conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigation” into acts of violence against the group (CAT/C/IDN/CO2). By issuing the Joint Decree KEP-033/A/JA/6/2008 of the Minister of Religious Affairs, the Attorney General and the Minister of the Interior on June 9, 2008, which orders the group to „stop spreading interpretations and activities which deviate from the principal teachings of Islam” including „the spreading of the belief that there is another prophet with his own teachings after Prophet Mohammed”, Indonesia violates the sect’s external freedom of religion by preventing Ahmadiyah members from spreading their religious teachings. Violations of the decree are subject to up to five years of imprisonment. The decree refers to religious freedom which is guaranteed in Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution, Article 28(i) of the amended Constitution, law No.39/1999 law on human rights and law No. 12/2005 ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Though, its legal basis is highly questionable. The decree contradicts law No. 12/2005 on the ratification of ICCPR which allows the restraint of a group’s religious rights in order to maintain public order, public morality and people’s right and freedom. Ahmadiyah has not violated these principles nor has it been taken to court for any crime. Another legal basis of the decree are Presidential decree No.1/PNPS/1965 which decides that there are only five formally recognized religions in Indonesia and is the basis for article 156 A on Blasphemies in the Criminal Code that criminalizes religions or beliefs declared deviate. Decree No. 1/PNPS/1965 restraints citizens’ rights to freedom of religion and is therefore in contradiction to the Constitution and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a legal basis it is to be regarded irrelevant as it was enacted under authoritarian rule which allowed the president to issue rules. The decree states that attacks against Ahmadiyah adherents will entail legal prosecution of the perpetrators. The Government should take the protection of minority groups seriously. After the issuance of the decree intimidation towards Ahmadiyah has not ended as the case of June 18, 2008 shows when in Cianjur four Ahmadiyah mosques were vandalized and sealed off without police intervention. On the basis of the situation outlined above, we recommend the following to the General Assembly: ·

  • to urge the GoI to effectively protect minority rights;
  • to urge the GoI to effectively guarantee the right to freedom of religion;
  • to urge the GoI to ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigation into violence and discrimination of religious minorities;
  • to urge the GoI to prosecute and punish perpetrators with penalties appropriate to the nature of their acts;
  • to urge the GoI to annul the highly ambiguous decree violating the external religious freedom of Ahmadiyah;
  • to encourage and assist the GoI to undertake further and sustainable steps to establish an independent judiciary and effective law-enforcement which is the basis for the guarantee of human rights.
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