Minority Islamic sect banned in Indonesian province

September 2nd, 2008 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, Sep 2 (DPA) Caving in to pressure from hardline Muslim groups, the provincial government of South Sumatra banned a minority Islamic sect branded “heretical” by the country’s top clerics, media reports said Tuesday.Acting Governor Mahyudin NS announced Monday that his administration had decided to prohibit the Ahmadiyah movement in the province on the grounds that it was “not compatible with Islamic teachings.”

“The decision to ban the Ahmadiyah sect is permanent and cannot be reviewed because it is based on valid regulations,” The Jakarta Post quoted Mahyudin as saying after a meeting with provincial officials and representatives from a number of Islamic organisations.

South Sumatra was the second province in Indonesia to outlaw Ahmadiyahs. A similar prohibition was recently imposed by neighbouring West Sumatra.

Ahmadiyah leaders in South Sumatra said their sect has about 1,000 followers in the province.

Several conservative Muslim organisations demanded the sect’s dissolution ahead of the ban.

The Indonesian government issued a decree in June that ordered the minority sect’s followers to stop spreading its teachings and return to mainstream Islam or face five years in prison and the disbanding of the group.

However, hardline groups claimed the decree did not go far enough and are demanding the Ahmadiyah sect either be dissolved or forced to declare itself non-Muslim.

Ahmadiyah believers have become the target of attacks and violence by hardline groups in recent months after an edict by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s highest authority on Islam, which declared the sect heretical.

Mainstream Muslims reject Ahmadiyah’s claim of prophethood of its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who died in India in 1908. Most Muslims believe Mohammed was the last of the prophets.

With nearly 88 percent of its 230 million people embracing Islam, Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. The country has a long history of religious tolerance.

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