According to Padang Legal Aid Institute (LBH Padang) and Ahmad Ilyas from the Indonesian Ahmadi Congregation (JAI), some 250-300 villagers and members of the Indonesian Islamic Student Association (Persatuan Mahasiswa Islam Indonesia, PMII) Sorolangun conducted a ‘protest’ at the office of JAI Singkut at 10:30 a.m. on 4 December 2013. Among other things, they demanded that the Ahmadis leave Singkut, take down their organisation’s sign board, and embrace the ‘real’ teachings of Islam.
A negotiation between the leader of Ahmadi Singkut and the intolerant mob took place, and was mediated by several state officials, including the Deputy Chief of Sarolangun District Police and some members of the military. LBH Padang reported that, after the negotiation, the Ahmadi half-heartedly agreed to take down the JAI’s sign board themselves. Pressure from the protesting villagers and the PMII members eventually resulted in the sign board being taken down by the Public Order Agency at 12.00 p.m.
In early November 2013, it had been reported that approximately 80 villagers and members of an intolerant group intimidated two Ahmadi families living in Pelawan Jaya village. They demanded that the two families either give up their religious beliefs or leave the village. Among the crowd was the Head of Pelawan Jaya village, Arifin, who stated that he would not take any responsibility if ‘something (bad)’ happened to the family. Being repeatedly intimidated not only by the villagers but also the leaders of Pelawan Jaya village, the two families decided to move out. One family moved to Bengkulu province, whereas the other made their way to Batu Putih village.
In an interview with the AHRC, Ahmad Ilyas of JAI Singkut mentioned that it was only in 2013 that his congregation experienced direct intimidation from intolerant groups. In previous years, the intimidation was indirect – there were only rumours that the Ahmadis in Singkut were not safe. LBH Padang suspected that the escalating intimidation was triggered by the issuance of an instruction by the Regent of Sarolangun, in July 2013. It called for the prohibition of religious activities by the Ahmadi. Prior to the issuance of the instruction, Cek Endra, the Regent, mentioned to the media that the growth of the Ahmadis in Singkut is ‘everybody’s homework’.
The instruction refers to the 2008 Joint Decree of the Minister of Religious Affairs, the Attorney General and the Minister of the Interior as well as Jambi Governor Regulation No. 27 Year 2011 – both are higher regulations prohibiting Ahmadis’ activities.
Intimidation and discrimination in Indonesia against religious minorities, including the Ahmadis, has been ongoing for the past few years. Earlier this year, the AHRC reported the closing down of three Ahmadi mosques in Cianjur and another one in Bekasi, West Java. In 2011, three Ahmadi members were murdered in Cikeusik. Twelve individuals involved in the killing were sentenced to a light punishment of three to six months imprisonment.
Concerns have been raised by the international community, including the UN, on the state of religious intolerance in Indonesia. In a human rights review at the UN this year, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern on ‘failure of the part of State authorities to protect victims of violent attacks motivated by religious hatred’. Responding to the concerns raised by several states during the Universal Periodic Review in 2012, the Indonesian government promised to review existing laws and policies to ensure their compatibility with the right to freedom of religion or belief. There has been no indication, however, that the government will fulfil its promise as of today.