Monday, February 7, 2011

Six Killed in Java Religious Clash

JAKARTA

More than 1,000 Muslims clashed on Sunday with supporters of a minority sect branded heretical by the government, leaving up to six people dead.

Protesters surrounded a house in Pandeglang district in West Java on Sunday morning, state-run news agency Antara reported, to stop the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect from holding their worship there.

Antara said six people were killed in the clash, which was sparked after a sect follower stabbed a resident, but police could only confirm three dead.

“Three died and they were members of Ahmadiyah in Jakarta but they have yet to be identified. Four people were seriously injured,” district police chief Alex Fauzi Rasyad told Metro TV.

The sect’s followers were armed with spears and machetes, he added.

A government decree adopted in 2008 under pressure from Islamic conservatives bans the sect from spreading its faith, which includes the belief that its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the final Muslim prophet.

Orthodox Islam holds that Mohammed was the final prophet, leaving the Ahmadis open to charges of heresy and blasphemy, which are punishable by up to five years in jail under a controversial 1965 law.

The Ahmadiya group claims 500,000 followers in Indonesia, while the country’s largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, has around 30 million members.

Indonesia’s constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion and the country of some 240 million people, 80 percent of whom are Muslim, has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

There have been growing calls for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to act against Islamic extremists who regularly attack civil society groups as well as minorities including Christians, communists and transvestites.

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