An Indonesian Islamic extremist group has called on supporters to prepare for war against a minority sect, but President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono warned authorities would not tolerate violence.
The call to arms by Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) chief Habib Rizieq Shihab came after followers violently attacked a weekend rally that tried to promote religious tolerance.
“I have ordered all members of the Islamic Force to prepare for war against the Ahmadiyah (sect) and their supporters,” he told reporters.
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He warned the government to ban the sect for its unorthodox beliefs or his stick-wielding militants would take matters into their own hands.
“We will never accept the arrest of a single member of our force before the government disbands Ahmadiyah … We will fight until our last drop of blood,” he said.
The extremist leader was defiant amid calls for the arrest of his followers who attacked Sunday’s rally in the capital of the world’s most populous Muslim state.
Yudhoyono condemned the attackers and called for a tough response from the authorities, even though police did nothing to stop the assault.
“I am deeply concerned with what happened yesterday afternoon. I condemn strongly the attackers that caused injury to our people,” Yudhoyono said.
“Our country is bound by the law and constitution and is not a country that supports violent acts. In regard to this incident, the law must be upheld.”
The Ahmadiyah sect, which has around 200,000 followers in Indonesia and has been present in Jakarta since the 1920s, believes Mohammad was not the final prophet – contradicting a central tenet of Islam.
The country’s highest religious authority has recommended it be banned.
Yudhoyono said firm action was required to assert the state’s authority in the face of fanatical vigilante groups which were prepared to take the law into their own hands.
“Sanctions and firm action according to the law against the attackers will show that the state cannot be defeated by violent attackers,” he said, adding that the attack had damaged Indonesia’s international reputation.
About 100 members of the National Alliance for Religious and Faith Freedom were rallying in central Jakarta on Sunday when they were set upon by hundreds of enraged FPI members, some wielding bamboo sticks.
Dozens of people were beaten and injured, some severely, and parked cars were also smashed as police looked on.
“About 300 of them stormed us out of the blue. They hit kids and women. My chin was bleeding as they hit me with a bamboo baton while I was trying to protect my wife and children,” said Ahmad Suaedy of the Wahid Institute, a liberal Islamic think-tank.
Suaedy was among scores of moderate Indonesians who had gathered at the national monument in Jakarta to protest against religious intolerance and the proposed ban on the Ahmadiyah sect, deemed deviant by Islamic authorities.
No FPI members were arrested and police detective Bambang Hendarso Danuri said only five people had been identified as suspects.
“We hope we can arrest them today. We will take firm action against anyone who was involved in this attack,” he said.
Jakarta police chief Budi Winarko said officers had not intervened in order to avoid an escalation of violence, the Jakarta Post daily reported.
Sunday’s attack has led to a flurry of calls from activists here for the government to ban FPI, which has been involved in several violent vigilante attacks in the past.
Four years ago it sent its stick-wielding fanatics to attack bars selling alcohol in Jakarta during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Original title: Prepare for war with sect: Indon group