Indonesia’s beleaguered Ahmadiyah sect suffered another blow on Thursday as Bekasi’s mayor announced plans to shutdown a Pondok Gede mosque as part of a city-wide crackdown on what Islamic officials have branded a “deviant” branch of Islam.
“It has been banned.” Mayor Rahmat Effendi said of the sect. “We want to… prevent social clashes that will cause losses on all sides. The government needed to make a decision and stop it.”
The 70-member Al-Misbah mosque, on Jalan Pangrango Terusan, has held regular prayers since it opened as Bekasi’s first and only Ahmadiyah mosque in 1998. The small community had a good relationship with residents in Pondok Gede for more than a decade and continued to operate without issue after the ban was put in place more than a year ago, Imam Rahmat Rahmadijaya told the Jakarta Globe.
The mosque now faces closure.
The mayor said the decision to shutdown the Ahmadiyah mosque was made to prevent future bloodshed. But Ahmadiyah officials argued that the city only took action after Islamic hard-liners announced plans to open a branch in Pondok Gede.
“The police told us that the local government wants to seal the mosque because the Islamic Defenders’ Front’s (FPI) Pondok Gede chapter will officially open on Friday,” Rahmadijaya said. “Their office is near our mosque. The FPI will conduct a ‘tabligh akbar’ [mass sermon] and then demonstrate against us to demand they close our mosque. The police told us the government wants to prevent a clash between the FPI and the Ahmadiyah.”
Effendi denied the allegations. He said the city was acting in accordance with local regulations. Bekasi banned the Ahmadiyah in 2011 after receiving numerous complaints from the public, he said.
“The government asked them to stop their activities, but they ignored us,” he said.
Bekasi Police were standing guard outside the mosque Thursday morning. The Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) has been tasked with stopping any Ahmadiyah prayers. The mosque will remain open, Effendi said, but the Ahmadiyah can only pray there if they follow the rules of mainstream Islam and abandon their beliefs.
“They can pray,” he said, “but it should be done according to [Islamic] Shariah.”
Rahmadijaya said the community plans to ignore the government and will reopen the mosque once the FPI leaves.
The Bekasi Police were standing by to secure the area on Thursday, intelligence division head Comr. Rully Indra said.
The Indonesian Ahmadiyah Indonesian Congregation (JAI) said the FPI set their sights on the Al-Misbah mosque a long time ago.
“After the Cikeusik attack, the Ahmadiyah mosque in Bekasi have been harassed by the FPI’s East Jakarta branch,” JAI spokesman Firdaus Mubarik said. “And now, they open new branch near to the mosque. I don’t understand why the Bekasi government is over-reacting to the FPI’s threats.”
FPI spokesman Munarman could not be contacted for comment.