Their places of worship have been torched, Muslims call for their death, and police do nothing to protect them in this Islamist state. Are these Jews or Christians? No, the sect that finds itself under siege is a moderate Islamic group whose teachings offend the mainstream Muslims in Indonesia:
Members of a moderate Muslim sect were ordered by the government Monday to return to mainstream Islam or face possible imprisonment for insulting the country’s predominant religion.
Critics may see the step as a failure by the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to uphold the young democracy’s secular values as it struggles to define its Muslim identity after decades of dictatorship.
The vast majority of Indonesia’s Muslims are moderate, but in recent years an extremist fringe has grown louder. The government, which relies on the support of Islamic parties in Parliament, has been accused of caving in to their demands.
The document signed Monday by two Cabinet ministers and the attorney general “orders all Ahmadiyah followers to stop their activities” or face up to five years in prison.
Indonesia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but many in the nation of 235 million consider it offensive that the sect does not recognize Muhammad as the last prophet.
Indonesia recently moved from dictatorship to democracy, but the rule of law still needs a little work. Their constitution supports freedom of religion, but apparently holds little power against a minority of radical Islamists unwilling to peacefully co-exist with other, more moderate sects even within Islam. Their violence and the threat of escalation has the elected government backpedaling, trying to appease them by sacrificing their ecumenical principles.
If these extremists can’t coexist with moderate Muslims, they certainly aren’t going to negotiate shared space with Christians or Jews. Those who call for negotiations with radical extremists should learn a lesson in Indonesia. The extremists will always use violence to beat everyone else into submission. The pacifists who dream of multicultural understanding will almost always act to appease them, until their own space finally gets invaded by the extremists.
Earlier today, we noted the success that we have had in Indonesia against terrorists, and that is good news. Their capitulation to religious extremists in the first test of religious freedom is disappointing and potentially dangerous. Hopefully the Indonesian government will rethink its ban on Ahmadiya and instead start arresting those who want to impose their religious beliefs through violence.