Monday, January 24, 2011

Hounded Indonesia Muslim Group Still in Dire Straits

Jakarta Globe, Indonesia
Hounded Indonesia Muslim Group Still in Dire Straits
Nicholaus Prasetya | January 24, 2011

Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara. Last year, Faizah used the money she had painstakingly saved over the course of four years to rebuild the home that had been destroyed in a 2006 mob attack.

Last year, though, the village of this mother of four came under attack again, with Faizah and her neighbors being forced to flee.

A former resident of Gegerung village in West Lombok, Faizah is a member of Ahmadiyah, a minority Muslim sect deemed deviant and constantly harassed by mainstream Muslim groups.

On Nov. 26, more than a hundred people ransacked the village, with police standing by idly.

Speaking to the Jakarta Globe at a temporary shelter that houses around 500 displaced Ahmadiyah members in Mataram, the provincial capital, Faizah said that although her home was spared in the November incident, people did loot her possessions — and continue to do so.

“I am too afraid to return home,” she said. “I have been told there are still people taking away tiles from the roof of my home, stealing the wooden beams, taking everything I have. I believe all that’s left is just the skeleton of my former home.”

November’s violence was the third attack against the Ahmadiyah group in West Nusa Tenggara in recent years. Like most residents of Gegerung, Faizah and her family moved there from Selong village in neighboring East Lombok, where hard-line groups reduced their houses to rubble. Nobody was prosecuted for the attack, and the local administration did not compensate for losses.

In fact, amid intensifying calls to ban the sect, the central government issued a decree in 2008 that prohibited its members from practicing their faith in public and from spreading its beliefs.

“Before the [2006] incident, we lived harmoniously with [non-Ahmadiyah] residents,” Faizah said. “We prayed at the same mosques. They visited us like neighbors do. Some of them borrowed soap and kitchen utensils. There was never any tension.”

She accused firebrand clerics for fueling hatred toward the Ahmadiyah and intolerance in the district.

“There was this one man, Syafii. He used to borrow money from us. We were very nice to him and treated him like a family member. But when the attackers came, he joined them in destroying our homes,” Faizah said. “I guess the provocateurs brought out the worst in him.”

The only protection the government offered the displaced Ahmadiyah members was to relocate them to the Transito building complex in Mataram — an abandoned facility once used to temporarily house migrant workers.

More than 500 homeless Ahmadiyah members were cramped into the 600-square-meter facility. Four years on, the government seems to have forgotten about the displaced as they now live with hardly any running water, proper sanitation, electricity or financial assistance.

What was supposed to be a temporary solution seems to have become permanent. There have been no signs from the local administration that the Ahmadiyah members will be allowed to return to Gegerung.

Zubaidah, 52, another displaced Ahmadiyah member, agreed to show the 3-meter by 4-meter booth she shares with her two daughters, their husbands and her six grandchildren. The structure is in the corner of one of the 150-square-meter rooms in the run-down facility.

Up to 10 families occupy a single room, each with its own booth, partitioned off with bamboo poles, cardboard and pieces of fabric.

With such limited space, children are forced to play in the small hallways and toddlers are left to lie on the dirty tile floor as their mothers prepare meals in a small, makeshift kitchen outside.

Each family has its own kitchenette constructed of bamboo and a corrugated iron roof. The kitchenettes are dark, blackened by the fumes of kerosene stoves. Some poorer families cook with wood.

“Five years we have been neglected. In five years, government officials have never set foot in this place to check our condition or to listen to our problems,” Zubaidah said.

“Just once, in 2009, did they come — to erect a booth for the legislative and presidential elections, so that those of us who still had valid ID cards could vote.”

Those whose ID cards have expired have great difficulties in getting them extended because of their disputed residency status.

The grim conditions at the shelter have left some families willing to return to their village, despite knowing that police and the government have refused to vouch for their safety.

“The conditions at the shelter are unbearable to some, so many have reluctantly ventured to other cities and provinces,” said Jauzi Djafar, spokesman of the West Nusa Tenggara chapter of the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI).

Jauzi added that the local government has refused to grant the displaced Ahmadiyah members ID cards, even though such cards are compulsory in Indonesia.

Without an ID card it is almost impossible for the Ahmadiyah members — having lost virtually all their belongings in the attacks — to apply for jobs, obtain a driver’s license or a passport for the hajj pilgrimage.

“Mataram refuses to give the displaced ID cards because officially they are residents of West Lombok district,” Jauzi said. “But the district argues they should apply for Mataram residency because they have been living here for years.”

All the displaced can do is work at local plantations or — like Faizah — make a living as a small-scale vendor.

Copyright 2010 The Jakarta Globe
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