JAKARTA, Indonesia: A government team has recommended that Indonesia outlaw a Muslim sect that has come under attack from hard-liners as heretical, angering human rights activists who accuse authorities of cowing to pressure from extremists.
The Ahmadi movement has faced bans and persecution in Muslim countries around the world for its belief in another prophet after Muhammad. The group insists it should be considered part of Islam.
A government team of prosecutors, religious scholars and home affairs department officials concluded that the sect “had deviated from Islamic principles” and recommended Wednesday that the government ban it.
“Their activities are causing unrest among Muslims,” team leader Wishnu Subroto said Thursday.
The government was to meet Thursday to discuss the recommendation, media reports said. The team recommended Ahmadi followers be charged with “insulting a religion” — a charge that carries a five-year jail term.
A prominent human rights activist said any ban “cannot be justified and should be regarded as a serious violation of the constitution,” referring to clauses guaranteeing freedom of religion.
“This recommendation shows that board’s members do not understand the real function of the state,” said Hendardi, who goes by a single name.
Hard-liners have led an increasingly vocal campaign against Ahmadi in recent years, often vandalizing its mosques and the homes of its followers. In many cases, police made no attempt to stop the attackers.
“We are the victims here, yet we are being banned,” Yan Hussein Lamardi, a lawyer for the group, told Koran Tempo newspaper.
The Ahmadi sect is believed to have around 200,000 followers in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation. It was founded at the end of the 19th century in Pakistan where it is banned.
Indonesia is a secular country, with a long history of religious tolerance. But in recent years, a hard-line fringe has grown louder and the government — which relies on the support of Islamic parties in parliament — has been accused of cowing to it.
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