Syofiardi Bachyul Jb., The Jakarta Post, Padang
Activists in West Sumatra have protested against a raid on the Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah Islamic sect by police acting on the orders of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).
The sect has found itself under attack in several parts of the country, including West Sumatra and West Java, since the council declared it blasphemous on Thursday and demanded the government ban it.
The Pusaka Inter-Community Study Center, a non-governmental organization promoting pluralism in West Sumatra, has called for the public to respect individual's rights to perform their religions and beliefs according to human rights.
"Labeling a group's teachings as blasphemous and then attacking them is against the Constitution.
"The police and the Indonesian Ulema Council should refrain (from doing so) and solve the matter wisely," Pusaka director Sudarto told The Jakarta Post.
Members of several large organizations, including the Indonesian Mujahidin Council, visited last week the shop-house in Padang where the sect, led by 44-year-old Dedi Priadi, operates.
They ordered the worshipers to stop their activities before raiding and sealing the building.
Police detained 11 Al-Qiyadah members, including Dedi, in order to prevent "clashes". The sect members were eventually releases, although Dedi has been ordered to report to the police every day and the building has been secured with a police line.
In Bogor regency, West Java, police sealed off two villas belonging to Al-Qiyadah's founder Ahmad Moshaddeq or Haji Salam on Friday to prevent any attacks on the property.
Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council Ma'ruf Amin said people needed to be wary of Ahmad Moshaddeq's teachings because he said he was the next prophet after Muhammad.
Ma'ruf said that the sect did not regard daily prayers, fasting or the pilgrimage to Mecca as compulsory.
The MUI has said that any followers of the sect would be considered apostates.
Sudarto, who is also a member of the West Sumatra chapter of the National Commission on Human Rights, said the government should stay neutral.
He said sealing off the sect's building and requiring its leader in West Sumatra to report to the police over a personal issue was against human rights.
"The state has again used the Criminal Code against the sect for tarnishing a mainstream religion.
"The Criminal Code should not be placed above the Constitution, which guarantees people the freedom to perform their own religions and beliefs ... ," he said.
He said the accusations against the sect should be solved through dialog.
In West Sumatra, Dedi Priadi claimed to have 4,000 followers, mostly students.
In his teachings, he says praying once a day at night, instead of five times, is enough, but denies the sect is blasphemous.
Gusrizal Gazahar of the West Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council said they have monitored the sect for some time and had even sent two people inside the organization.
"The sect is misleading and not Islam. But it claims to be Islam so we ask the government to ban it and call the people involved to get back on the right track," Gusrizal said.
The West Sumatra Provincial Prosecutor's Office released a decision banning Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah on Friday.