Nowhere safe for Ahmadiyah as persecutors expand into Central Java

Nowhere safe for Ahmadiyah as persecutors expand into Central Java

Vandalism: Books are seen scattered through the ruins in a corner of Ahmadiyah congregation’s Al Kautsar Mosque following mass rioting on Sunday in Purworejo village, Kendal, Central Java.( Courtesy of Ahmadiyah congregation )

For decades, some 100 followers of the Ahmadiyah religious group have lived peacefully with their neighbors in Purworejo village in Kendal, Central Java, but this ended early on Monday when a mob ransacked their place of worship, the Al Kautsar mosque.

The destruction of the property belonging to the sect, which the Indonesian Ulema Council ( MUI ) has declared to be deviant from mainstream Islam, marks a new departure for vigilante groups attacking beleaguered minority groups in the country; away from daylight harassment to attacks committed under the cover of darkness.

The Purworejo incident came just three months after a group of Ahmadiyah followers in Bangka regency, Bangka Belitung province, were forced to leave their village after locals protested against their presence in the region.

Head of Al Kautsar mosque committee Ta’zis said the attack occurred during a heavy downpour in the village around 1:30 a.m. when everyone was sleeping.

He was unaware of the attack until 6 a.m. when he discovered the roof, walls and doors of the mosque had been heavily damaged. Korans were seen scattered on the floor as local police cordoned off the crime scene in the morning.

“Our congregation comprises around 100 people, of whom 88 are officially registered. We’ve interacted well with people in the neighborhood up to this time. This leads us to confusion regarding the reason for the attack. We have reported the incident to the police,” Ta’zis said.

The attack took place after local officials, including the head of Purworejo village and the subdistrict head, approached the mosque committee on May 18 claiming that people were opposed to the existence of the mosque, which was built in 2012, after the committee had carried out work on the mosque roof.

“The renovation was underway but suddenly this incident took place,” said another Ahmadiyah member Roy Attaul Jamil, who also serves as head of the Central Java and Yogyakarta branch of Ahmadiyah.

Monday’s incident was the first such attack on the Ahmadiyah in Central Java and the Special Region of Yogyakarta provinces. Previously, Ahmadiyah groups in West Java, West Nusa Tenggara and Bangka Belitung provinces had fallen victim.

Local police are slated to launch discussions with the Ahmadiyah congregation in Purworejo and village leaders, as well as the Kendal regent to resolve the situation with the mosque.

The country’s second-largest Islamic organization Muhammadiyah condemned the attack, saying that the problem of persecution of minority groups continued to recur across the country because law enforcers failed to punish properly those found to have attacked minority groups.

“These attackers have received lenient sentences so far and in several cases they’ve even walked away free. Law enforcers fail to prosecute them because they feel that putting them in jail will offend [mainstream] believers,” Muhammadiyah secretary-general Abdul Mukti said.

The Setara Institute said that Monday’s attack added to the long list of attacks conducted by hardliners against Ahmadiyah groups across the country. As of today, there were a total of 114 attacks against Ahmadiyah between 2007 and 2016.

Setara chairman Hendardi said there was no reason for locals in Purworejo to object to the mosque because the group had acquired a permit to build their house of worship in 2003, five years before a joint ministerial decree was established in 2008 to restrict the Ahmadiyah from following their beliefs or setting up houses of worship.

The National Police said they were investigating the Purworejo attack and called on hard-line groups to refrain from persecuting minority groups in the country.

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