Friday, November 2, 2007

NGOs, rights body differ on Al Qiyadah

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A coalition of NGOs and the National Commission on Human Rights expressed different opinions Thursday about the al-Qiyadah sect, which has been described as "misguided" and prohibited in Jakarta by the Provincial Prosecutor's Office and nationally by the Indonesia Ulema Council.

Uli Parulian Sihombing of the Coalition for Freedom of Religion said the provincial prosecutors and the police should stay neutral and facilitate an open dialog between the sect and Muslim organizations protesting against its existence.

"A gentlemen's agreement or a fair compromise" between the various religious organizations was expected to come as a result of the dialog, Uli said.

"The police can not just arrest the sect leaders and label the sect misguided just because a major Muslim organization tells them to do so," Uli told a press conference held at the Wahid Institute.

"It is not fair for any minority sect like al-Qiyadah to be singled out. At least give them a chance to defend themselves through dialog."

He said the Jakarta Prosecutor's Office had violated the 2005 Ratification of Civil and Political Rights Conventions Law by arresting sect members and banning the organization. The article honors the freedom to choose ones religion and beliefs.

The Jakarta Prosecutor's Office used a 1965 presidential decree that allows the office, on behalf of the government, to ban religious organizations that distort or misrepresent the teachings of existing religions.

An Attorney General Office's spokesman, Thomson Siagian, said that the central government planned to discuss whether it would declare al-Qiyadah a "misguided sect" nationally on Nov. 7.

Among those who agree with the sect's banning is chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights, Ifdal Kasim, who said the government should ban the sect as its beliefs disrupted the rights of others.

"The government should notice the fact that there are groups in the community who get irritated with the sect's way of spreading its teachings and therefore it is right that the government intervene immediately," he was quoted as saying by newsportal.

Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah was founded by Abdussalam, also known as Ahmad Moshaddeq, in 2000 in Gunung Sari, Bogor. Ahmad declared himself a new prophet, replacing Prophet Muhammad, on July 3.

Not only did he inaugurated himself as the new prophet, but he changed several religious teachings originating from Islam, such as the core creed, which acknowledges Muhammad as the final prophet, and the obligation to pray five times daily.

As many as 41,000 people across nine major cities in the country are believed to be members of the sect.

Ahmad is being held at Jakarta Police Headquarters and could be charged under Article 156 A of the Criminal Code on blasphemy, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Separately in Bekasi, three al-Qiyadah followers gave themselves up to Bekasi Police on Thursday, saying they were afraid for their lives after the arrest of their leader.

The three, Ricky Septo Nugroho, Rahmat Hudiana and Rahman, said they joined the sect two years ago.

Bekasi Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Laope said he expected other al-Qiyadah members to give themselves up to the police as soon as possible in order to clarify their status. (dic/adt)

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