SBY pressured over sect killing

CIVIL and religious rights group have demanded the dismissal of Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister.

Suryadharma Ali is under fire after the mob killing of three devotees of Ahmadiyah, a sect he wants banned.

A coalition of NGOs yesterday called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to get rid of Mr Suryadharma, criticised often for failing to differentiate his ministerial responsibility to protect the religious rights of all Indonesians from his leadership of the Islamic United Development Party (PPP).

“The quality of democracy in Indonesia is decreasing, religious harmony is reducing and the pity is the minister, Suryadharma Ali, is not neutral or objective, in building religious harmony,” said Usman Hamid, director of Kontras, the commission for the disappeared and victims of violence.

The House of Representatives religious affairs commission moved to summons Mr Suryadharma, national police chief Timur Pradopo and possibly Islamic religious leaders to account for attacks on the Ahmadiyah Muslim Community’s estimated 500,000 Indonesian adherents.

A heterodox movement ruled heretical by the conservative Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), Ahmadiyah has been subjected to increased violence in the past 12 months and Sunday’s incident was the worst so far.

Outrage was fanned by circulation yesterday of a video showing how police allegedly made minimal efforts to restrain the attack by more than 1000 people on a house in a village in Banten province, southwest of Jakarta.

The house was occupied by 25 Ahmadis, who had refused police orders to disperse.

As the house was overrun by a mob wielding machetes, bamboo staves and rocks, three men were fatally stabbed and beaten, five people were seriously injured and two young men were still missing yesterday.

Eight people were being questioned yesterday afternoon but no charges had yet been laid, said national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar.

Dr Yudhoyono was “deeply concerned” and had instructed police to act against the perpetrators, “to capture them and haul them to court if need be,” senior adviser Daniel Sparingga told Agence France Presse.

However, the incident has again drawn attention to police failures to protect religious minorities, the President’s characteristic reluctance to speak out publicly on this issue and Mr Suryadharma’s conflicted role.

Last year, the minister called for all Ahmadiyah activities to be banned, prompting Human Rights Watch to accuse him of “playing with fire” by increasing the movement’s vulnerability to physical attacks by mainstream Islamists.

Now Mr Suryadharma and General Timur have been instructed by Dr Yudhoyono to make a public report on the Banten attack.

Mr Suryadharma yesterday called for an end to all “anarchic” actions, but questioned by reporters about his attitude and behaviour, he responded: “You can judge for yourself whether they are against Islam or not.”

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