Jakarta. The municipal government of Bekasi, West Java on Friday resealed a mosque belonging to members of the beleaguered Ahmadiyah religious movement after officials noticed the entrance had been unblocked.
“We sealed it again because the lock and seal which were put there had been damaged,” municipal attorney Sugianto said.
The Al-Bismah mosque was closed by the city on Feb. 14, 2013, but its members continued to pray there until Bekasi Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) officers sealed the entrance on March 8, forcing members who were still inside to use a ladder to climb out.
“They said that they referred to the gubernatorial regulation, Indonesian Ulema Council edict and mayoral regulation that forbid Ahmadiyah, while clearly the regulations only forbid spreading Ahmadiyah teachings and no regulation prohibits activities,” Iman Rahmat Rahmadijaya told the Jakarta Globe at the time.
A month later, the city placed sheet metal around the mosque to thwart worshipers from finding ways in.
In December, a court ordered the city to take down the barricade but said the mosque could remain locked up.
On year ago this month, Bekasi Mayor Rahmat Effendi and local Islamic leaders petitioned President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to institute a nationwide ban on the oppressed group.
Thee 400-member mosque was built in 1998 and worship there went smoothly until 2011.
“The troubles started when we got a new mayor in Bekasi, Rahmat Effendi,” Ahmad Maulana, head of security at the mosque, told the Globe in August of 2013. “He used to pray at this mosque before he was elected, even though he’s not an Ahmadi. But after his inauguration, things changed drastically.”
Soon after he was elected, he turned on the small community. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a hard-line group notorious for its vigilantism and violence, began a campaign of its own.
Rahmadijaya told the Globe that the mayor seemed afraid of the FPI.
Meanwhile, Sugianto defended the city's decision to keep the persistent worshipers out.
“We have locked and shut down the mosque before. The court supported us against Ahmadiyah’s request and asked the Ahmadiyah not to continue activity at this location,” Sugianto said.
Deden Sujana, head of the Ahmadiyah movement in Bekasi, said the government had failed to produce valid documents justifying the closure.
“When asked to show the letters, the government declined to give them [to us], saying that they hadn’t copied them," he said on Friday. "We want to know whether they have legal standing to do this."
Throughout the closure, some worshipers have managed to conduct Friday services in the mosque.
“Because it is locked, we climb the 1.5 meter fence to get into the mosque to pray,” Deden said. “There are 362 Ahmadiyah mosques in Indonesia, but only those in Depok and Bekasi are sealed."
Bekasi and Depok both fall under the jurisdiction of West Java governor Ahmad Heryawan, a member of the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). He once said that the Ahmadiyah's problems would disappear if the group itself disappeared.
Police officers have been watching the mosque around the clock.
“Before the sealing of the mosque on May 11, 2014, members of the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) Pondok Gede branch, Bekasi, intimidated members of Ahmadiyah who prayed in Al-Misbah mosque, and tried to prevent members who were headed to the mosque with words,” local activist Uli Parulian said on Friday, accusing the city of bowing to the whims of the radical group. “We urge the Bekasi government to respect the ongoing appeals process until there’s final and binding decision.”