Indonesia’s Muslim hardliners demand government ban ‘deviant’ sect

August 27th, 2008 - 6:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, Aug 27 (DPA) Thousands of Indonesian Muslim hardliners took to the streets of Jakarta Wednesday to demand the government immediately outlaw a minority Islamic sect branded “deviant” by top clerics. Activists from the Islamic Defenders Front protested against the Ahmadiyah sect in front of the presidential palace and demanded the release of their leader Habib Rizieq Shihab from custody.

Rizieq is on trial in the June 1 stick-wielding attack by hundreds of his followers on a rally for religious tolerance, in which dozens of people were injured.

The government issued a decree June 9 ordering Ahmadiyah followers to cease all activities and return to mainstream Islam or face five years’ imprisonment and the disbanding of the group.

But conservative groups criticized the decree as not going far enough and demanded the government disband the sect, whose leaders claim to have from 500,000 to two million followers in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s highest authority on Islam, has declared the Ahmadiyah sect heretical for believing its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who died in 1908 in India, is the last prophet instead of Mohammed, whom mainstream Muslims worldwide believe was God’s final messenger.

Indonesia is the world’s most-populous Islamic nation, with nearly 88 percent of its 225 million people professing to be Muslims.

It also has a long history of religious tolerance, particularly for Hinduism, Buddhism and traditional animist beliefs.

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