Many Muslims in West Java are expressing disagreement with the latest vigilante action by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which sealed and threatened to burn down an Ahmadiyah Mosque in Sumedang, West Java on October 6th.
The Al Mislika Mosque currently serves a 34-member Ahmadiyah community and has been operating in Sukatali village "for generations," according to the Jakarta Globe, which cited village leaders.
But the Sumedang branch of the FPI accused the congregation of violating a 2008 government decree that allows Ahmadiyah Muslims to practice their religion while imposing stiff penalties if they attempt to spread their ideas.
They claimed the Ahmadiyah had agreed to stop using the mosque, and took matters into their own hands after discovering the facility was still in use, the Globe said.
Observing Idul Adha
Firdaus Mubarik, an Ahmadiyah leader, said the congregation was using the mosque for prayer services, and that no other activities, such as study groups or reciting the Qur'an, had been conducted there.
"We only want to pray, just like others. We feel obligated to come to the mosque and pray, especially when Idul Adha is approaching," Mardiyanto Fakhrie, a 45-year-old Ahmadiyah follower in Sumedang, told Khabar Southeast Asia by phone.
Idul Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, is when Muslims commemorate Ibrahim's willingness to submit to God's command.
"I hope the authorities will pay close attention to this case. I do not think we had any misconduct. I hope this is just a short term clash," he added.
Many Muslims in the area expressed their strong disagreement with the FPI actions.
"I do believe that threatening to burn down the Ahmadiyah's mosques is neither God's command nor a message of sacrifice that the Qur'an wants us to understand," an Islamic cleric in Sumedang, Slamet Ahmad, told Khabar.
Susetyo Wibowo, a Bogor resident, said intolerance in West Java can hurt stability in the region, especially with the 2014 election approaching.
"I do not understand why FPI is so eager to shut down all Ahmadiyah mosques. I could not justify whether Ahmadiyah's teaching are wrong or right. However, I am aware of their commitment to humanity, social welfare, and helping the community, including those who are not Ahmadiyah followers. So I think they are practicing Islam in a good way. They have hospitals and schools," he told Khabar.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace in Jakarta, said the government must re-evaluate the effectiveness of the 2008 decree, which became the basis for provincial bans on the Ahmadiyah sect in East and West Java in 2011.
"Our authorities must revisit the status of the decree. They must analyze if the decree is working or failing in addressing religious tolerance, especially in West Java," he told Khabar.
In response to the situation, West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan emphasized that raids should not be conducted. He urged everyone to remain calm until a dialogue can be held to address the issue.
"We can eliminate the emotion and overcome this situation," he told Khabar after a meeting at Braja Mustika Hotel in Bogor on October 10th.
In a similar tone, Slamet said that religious tolerance in West Java needs to improve.
"We need West Java to be secure, so more tourists will come and visit our region. The security in our region can affect our economic growth," he commented.
"More importantly, we need to recognise that Islam has universal values of love, respect, and faith. If we do not believe that Ahmadiyah followers are practicing a good teaching of Islam, we must still show our love, faith, and respect of Islam," he said.