39 Muslim hardliners arrested in Indonesia

June 4th, 2008 - 11:22 am ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, June 4 (DPA) Indonesian police arrested 39 Muslim hardliners Wednesday for their alleged involvement in a violent attack over the weekend against interfaith supporters. The arrest of at least 39 supporters of Muslim hardliner group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) at the group’s headquarters in central Jakarta occurred without resistance, witnesses said.

Pressure was mounting for authorities to take legal action against the perpetrators in Sunday’s violent attack by FPI followers against interfaith supporters that wounded at least 30 people.

The violent attack triggered condemnation from community and religious leaders, with two of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)and Muhammadiyah, calling for the perpetrators to “be prosecuted”.

Habib Rizieq, chairman of FPI, told reporters Wednesday that his supporters did not resist arrest to show that he is committed to cooperate with the police as part of taking responsibility for the attack.

He said his supporters attacked Sunday’s gathering - billed as the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion - because it supported the “deviant” Ahmadiyah minority sect.

Rizieq, who was jailed for seven months in 2004 for inciting vandalism at entertainment spots in the capital Jakarta, had vowed Monday that his supporters would fight “until our last drop of blood” to resist attempts to arrest them.

Ahmadiyahs have been targets of attacks since a government commission recommended in April that the minority sect be outlawed.

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, not Mohammed, whom mainstream Muslims worldwide believe was God’s final messenger.

Human rights activists and civil liberties groups argue that followers of Ahmadiyah are protected under Indonesia’s constitution, which guarantees the right to religious freedom.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Islamic nation, nearly 88 percent of its 225 million people are Muslims. The country has a long history of religious tolerance.

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