The FPI in a protest outside the Australian Embassy in this file photo. The rent-a-mob has recently turned its attention to a small group of Ahmadis living in Tebet, South Jakarta. (Antara Photo/Zabur Karuru)

Jokowi Touts Tolerance as Ahmadis Come Under Threat

JUNE 14, 2015

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has echoed Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s claim that Indonesia’s brand of Islam is a peaceful one, on the same weekend that hard-liners in Jakarta threatened to drive out a community of beleaguered Ahmadiyah Muslims.

Joko, speaking at Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta on Sunday before an estimated 40,000 members of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s biggest Islamic organization, said Indonesian values had given the country’s brand of Islam a tolerant character.

“Ours is an Islam that is polite, full of courtesy and tolerance,” he said.

He added that Indonesia’s should be grateful for what he called “Islam Nusantara,” or “Archipelagic Islam,” noting that many other countries with Muslim-majority populations tended to be riven by conflict. He cited Yemen, Syria and Iran as examples.

Joko’s comments echo similar remarks by Vice President Kalla earlier this month, when he declared Indonesia the most religiously harmonious country in the world.

Kalla based his claim entirely on the fact that Indonesia officially celebrates the major holidays of the six religions sanctioned by the state.

“Tell me which country is more democratic than Indonesia,” he told the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace, on June 3 in Bandung. “Even the United States, the largest democracy, doesn’t have [an Islamic holiday as a national holiday].”

Joko’s claim of a tolerant Islam flies in the face of repeated attempts by the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, to drive out an Ahmadiyah congregation from the Tebet area of South Jakarta.

The FPI, a rent-a-mob that cites Islamic pretexts to justify its acts of criminal violence and vandalism, apparently took umbrage at the sight of a group of Ahmadis preparing to hold Friday noon prayers in the front yard of their house in Tebet.

After failing to persuade the Ahmadis to join the rest of the neighborhood’s men for prayers at a nearby mosque, the mob threatened to turf out the group, accusing it of heresy. Police were later called to the scene to avert a clash, but the FPI members threatened to return on Sunday.

They were duly back as promised, and harangued the Ahmadis. The police, who said they would post officers outside the house, were nowhere to be seen.

Pantiarso, the neighborhood unit chief, said he wasn’t disturbed by the Ahmadis, who have been living and worshiping in the area since the 1970s. Of greater concern to him, he said, was the FPI and its threats of violence.

He said he was well aware of the group’s reputation for attacking and torching homes, and feared that residents in the area who were not Ahmadi could be targeted in an attack.