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In Indonesia, Muslims, Ahmadis in standoff

From Kathy Quiano-Castro, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tensions flare in West Java
  • Problem stems from order to close Ahmadi mosques
  • Many Muslims dislike the Ahmadi faith

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- Sectarian tensions rippled through an Indonesian town Thursday, where groups squared off over the closing of a minority group's mosques.

Groups of Muslims and Ahmadis threw rocks at each other in the West Javan village of Kuningan, with police standing guard between the two groups.

Indonesian TV showed scenes from the village and quoted police and others about the tensions.

The violence flared after the local government ordered the sealing and closing down of several Ahmadi mosques.

Ahmadis, a religious group loathed by many in the Muslim world, are considered heretical and have been persecuted.

Sunni and Shiites do not consider the Ahmadis part of Islam because they do not regard Mohammed as the last prophet sent by God. As such, they have been targeted by Islamic extremists.

The Indonesians haven't banned the group but have issued a decree banning the religion from holding public gatherings and spreading their beliefs. An Islamic council there also issued a fatwa against the group.

After the mosques were ordered closed, Ahmadis resisted, hurling rocks at police deployed there. Islamic activists came to the scene and demanded the closings.

Anti-Ahmadi protesters tried to break through the police barricade to get to the mosques. Residents fearing more attacks have put up signs in front of their homes, saying they're not members of the Ahmadiya group.

Police officer Yoyo Indayah, from the Kuningan police, says officers were trying to persuade the activists to leave the site after evening prayers.

Slamet Effendy, head of the commission on inter-religious harmony in the Indonesian Islamic Clerics Council, said in a TV interview that he hopes for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

"Our security officers are still guarding the sealed mosques," a police commander, S. Priyono, said on TV.