Jakarta. A district head in West Nusa Tenggara announced plan to relocate 20 Ahmadiyah families to a deserted island, a move many say is both discriminatory and inhumane.
“We are trying to protect Ahmadiyah members,” Zaini Arony, district head of West Lombok, said on Monday, as quoted by Antara.
Zaini said he had discussed the matter with religious figures and members of society, adding that it had been agreed that Ahmadiyah members would be relocated to an island in Sekotong subdistrict.
He claimed the local government feared a repeat of an incident in February 2006 when thousands of mainstream Muslims burned homes belonging to Ahmadiyah members in the district.
The incidents left as many as 137 people homeless, all of whom had to be escorted by police officers to a temporary shelter in the provincial capital, Mataram.
In August, at least 20 families left the shelter and returned to the district. Zaini said their return was rejected by a number of groups.
Zafrullah Pontoh, the president of the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI), told the Jakarta Globe that the West Lombok government had never discussed the matter with the sect. “The local government is trying to banish Ahmadiyah from West Lombok,” he said.
Followers of Ahmadiyah, a sect founded in India in 1889, profess that the group’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is the last prophet, a belief that runs counter to mainstream Islamic beliefs that reserve that claim for the Prophet Muhammad.
The nation’s highest authority on Islamic affairs, the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), issued a fatwa in 2005 against the Ahmadiyah, calling its teachings blasphemous. And the government issued a joint ministerial decree in 2008 banning its members from practicing their faith in public or spreading its beliefs.
Ulil Abshar Abdalla, founder of the Liberal Islam Network and a Democratic Party politician, said the government must remain neutral and not support calls of intolerance against Ahmadiyah from mainstream Muslim groups.
“It needs time to correct religious indoctrination [in mainstream Muslim] that spur hatred towards Ahmadiyah. It needs time to reach cultural maturity to accept different views,” he said.
“However, I am saddened that the government is supporting this cultural immaturity and making it a political policy.”