President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara
Re: Persecution of the Ahmadiyah Community
Dear Mr. President,
We write to raise serious concerns about the continued persecution of members of the Ahmadiyah community in Indonesia. Recent public statements by Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali, stating that he plans to officially ban the Ahmadiyah religion, would increase the likelihood of renewed communal violence towards religious minorities. We call on you to publicly repudiate those statements and intervene to ensure the Ahmadis enjoy the right to practice their religion without fear of government interference. We also urge you to rescind the discriminatory decree issued in 2008 by the Religious Affairs and Home Affairs Ministries, and the Attorney General's Office, restricting the right of Ahmadis to publicly practice their faith.
A ban against the Ahmadiyah would violate guarantees of freedom of religion in Articles 28 and 29 of the constitution of Indonesia. Prohibiting the Ahmadiyah from practicing their religion also violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Indonesia in February 2006. By ratifying that convention, Indonesia agreed to comply with all the provisions of that treaty, including that, "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching" (Article 18(1)), and "persons belonging to ... minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion" (Article 27).
Minister Suryadharma's claim that banning the Ahmadiyah religion would somehow protect its members from attack is wrong. If anything, actions to restrict the rights of the Ahmadiyah have made them more vulnerable to attacks and given encouragement to Islamist militant groups who target them. The Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, a human rights group in Jakarta, recorded 33 cases of attacks against Ahmadiyah taking places in 2009. Separately, Setara recorded 28 attacks against Christian churches this year. It is increasing significantly compared with 18 church incidents in 2009 and 17 in 2008.
The attacks against the Ahmadiyah have intensified ever since a July 2005 edict issued by the Indonesian Council of Ulemas declaring the Ahmadis were deviating from Koranic teaching. In 2006, Islamist militant groups attacked the Ahmadiyah headquarters near Bogor, and assaults on Ahmadiyah members were also reported on Lombok Island as well as in western Java, including in Manis Lor, Tasikmalaya, Parung, Garut, Ciaruteun, and Sadasari. In December 2007, mobs attacked Ahmadiyah mosques and their homes in Kuningan.
On April 16, 2008, Indonesia's Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society (Bakor Pakem) recommended banning the Ahmadiyah faith. Two months later, on June 9, 2008, your government finally outlawed public teaching of Ahmadiyah beliefs by ordering the Ahmadiyah community to "stop spreading interpretations and activities which deviate from the principal teachings of Islam," including "the spreading of the belief that there is another prophet with his own teachings after Prophet Mohammed." Violations of the decree are subject to up to five years of imprisonment.
Human Rights Watch immediately called on the Indonesian government to reverse that decree, arguing that it will open up more attacks against the more than 200,000 Ahmadis in Indonesia and endanger their livelihoods. Our concerns unfortunately were realized when this prediction turned out to be correct. Unfortunately, your government and security forces have done little to either prevent these attacks or apprehend those committing these violent crimes.
In late July 2010, municipal police and hundreds of people organized by militant Islamist groups have made several attempts to close an Ahmadiyah mosque in Manis Lor village, resulting in violence. On October 1, 2010, mobs attacked the Ahmadiyah community in Cisalada, south of Jakarta, burning their mosque and several houses; the attackers also burned the Quran found inside the mosque.
We write to inquire why your government failed to act to investigate and prosecute those who burned the Ahmadiyah mosque in Cisalada, and what it is doing to prevent similar attacks against the Ahmadiyah in the future. We are deeply concerned that your government is pursuing a policy to ban Ahmadiyah that increases the likelihood that militants-taking encouragement from your government's failure to offer protection to the Ahmadis-will further target their mosques.
The Indonesian government should stand up for religious tolerance instead of persecuting the Ahmadiyah for their religious views, and should make it clear that as a matter of policy, all Indonesians will be protected in their religious beliefs. We make the following recommendations to your government:
- Publicly repudiate Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali's call to ban the Ahmadiyah religion;
- Revoke the June 2008 decree on the Ahmadiyah, which has increased the vulnerability of Ahmadiyah communities to attacks against their mosques and villages;
- Conduct prompt and impartial investigations into all threats and attacks against the Ahmadiyah and prosecute all those responsible for attacking Ahmadiyah mosques and houses; investigate Chep Hernawan, the leader of the Gerakan Reformis Islam, who openly admitted that he was responsible for the attacks in September 2005 in Sukadana, as well as Muhammad Izzi, who openly called on Muslims on Lombok Island to attack the Ahmadiyah village in Ketapang in February 2006;
- Direct the Ministry of Home Affairs to review and strike down all government bylaws used to persecute the Ahmadiyah faith, including a local decree issued by the Kuningan regent, who had twice sealed an Ahmadiyah mosque and threatened to close it down in Manis Lor;
- Direct provincial officials and the police to provide effective protection to all Ahmadiyah mosques and villages throughout Indonesia, particularly in West Java, which hosts Indonesia's largest Ahmadiyah community;
- Direct the governor of West Nusa Tenggara to allow Ahmadis who are now stranded in a refugee camp in Mataram, Lombok Island, to return to their houses in the Ketapang area; repudiate the governor's plan to move the Ahmadis into an empty island near Lombok Island;
- Raise protection of the Ahmadiyah as an important issue with President Barack Obama during his visit to Jakarta on November 9-10;
- Request Komnas HAM, the national human rights commission of Indonesia, to conduct a thorough investigation of all attacks against the Ahmadiyah since the implementation of the June 2008 decree and provide additional recommendations.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to discussing these issues with you or appropriate members of your staff at your earliest convenience.
Deputy Director, Asia Division