Jakarta. A rights group has urged the Indonesian government to take firm action against local authorities in the Bangka district of Bangka-Belitung Islands province to stop the expulsion of the Ahmadiyah religious minority, and to protect its members.
The local government on Bangka Island is currently expelling members of the community, after it issued a Jan. 5 letter demanding that they either convert to Sunni Islam or face expulsion.
The central government, which has the authority to prevent this action, has done nothing, and it is "deplorable," Rafendi Djamin, executive director of Human Rights Working Group Indonesia (HRWG), said in a statement released on Friday (05/02). "If the central government doesn’t intervene, we will always be trapped in this kind of situation."
The Bangka government’s act is "a pure violation" of freedom of religion and belief, Rafendi added, citing the 1999 Human Rights Law and the Constitution.
M. Choirul Anam, deputy director of HRWG, said the Bangka government's expulsion of the Ahmadiyah community, consisting of only 14 families, is a form of "disobedience" to the central government.
"Regional autonomy cannot be the reason for the local government to discriminate," he said. "Besides, authority over religious affairs is excluded from this autonomy."
The persecution of Ahmadis increased in 2001, when some local residents of East Lombok subdistrict in West Nusa Tenggara declared the Ahmadiyah belief as a heresy. The members of the religious minority were banned from obtaining an education, and some have become internally displaced since they have been expelled from their homes. Around 30 Ahmadiyah families are still living in a government sanctuary in West Nusa Tenggara.
In 2011, West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan banned the Ahmadiyah in Tasikmalaya from praying in their own mosque. Similar rules were subsequently imposed in other provinces, including East Java.
The threats and violence against the Ahmadiyah community were legalized in June 2008, when the government of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree ordering the community to "stop spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam."
Anyone guilty of violating the decree can be jailed for up to five years.