Displaced Shias free to practice faith: Minister

September 19, 2013
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JAKARTA, Indonesia – The government promised again Monday (September 16th) that displaced Shia followers from Sampang in Madura, East Java, will be able to safely practice their faith once they return to villages they were forced from by Sunnis 13 months ago, local media reported.

Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, who has been under fire for allegedly supporting the forced conversion of Shiites to Sunni Islam, guaranteed that the government would protect the Shiites' rights to perform religious activities according to their faith, The Jakarta Post reported.

Suryadharma, however, said they would still have to undergo the so-called "enlightenment" programme conducted by a government-sanctioned reconciliation team.

"This enlightenment process is led by a former rector of the Malang State Islamic University in East Java, Imam Suprayogo," he said. "It is neither a forced conversion nor a requirement for (the Shia followers) to sign such a pact or accord or whatever you call it."

Hertasning Ichlas, a lawyer representing the displaced Shia, claimed they were asked to renounce their faith if they want to return home.

But Suryadharma said 12 heads of families have returned to Tajul Muluk in Sampang, Madura, and that the process has gone smoothly, Tempo reported.

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