Monday, January 17, 2011

In Jakarta, Ahmadis left relatively unscathed

Mon, 01/17/2011
9:23 AM
In Jakarta, Ahmadis left relatively unscathed
The Jakarta Post
The Al-Hidayah mosque on Jl. Balikpapan in Harmoni, Central Jakarta, was quiet at noon on Tuesday last week.

A man sitting at a food stall outside the mosque gate greeted visitors. “You want to pray? Just go inside. The gate’s not locked.”

The 57-year-old mosque used to be the center of the Ahmadiyah organization in Indonesia.

Located in a crowded residential area, the mosque is just several hundred meters to the south of the notorious drug trafficking center of Kampung Bali and just 2 kilometers east of Jakarta’s infamous district on Jl. Hayam Wuruk and Jl. Mangga Besar.

Despite its grim location, the Ahmadis who pray or hold other activities at the mosque have so far been spared from the violence that has plagued their compatriots in other parts of the archipelago.

An estimated 10,000 Ahmadis currently reside in the capital, according to Ahmadiyah spokesman Zafrullah Pontoh

Muslim hardliners living far from the area protested against the existence of the mosque in 2005 and 2008. Local residents are mostly indifferent.

“I don’t really care about religious differences and the like,” said one resident, who asked to be identified as Yeni.

“As long as they don’t bother us when doing their activities, they can have a place here,” she added.

Around 15 kilometers west of the Al-Hidayah mosque is another iconic Ahmadiyah place of worship, which, coincidentally, is also named Al-Hidayah.

A group of Ahmadis gathered at the mosque in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta, one Friday afternoon in late December.

Soon a cleric began his Friday sermon, encouraging his audience not to fight fire with fire. “If we use violence to fight the violence that has been unleashed upon us, it is justified. It’s much better if we return that violence with prayers for those who persecute us.”

Local Ahmadis have been offering more than prayers to the surrounding community. This might explain why there has rarely been harsh persecution of the group, which has been labeled as “deviant” by the MUI, in Jakarta.

A resident living near the mosque, A’as, said the Ahmadis regularly gave charitable donations to people in the neighborhood, which was home to mostly lower- and middle-income people.

“Almost every month they give away free packages of staple food. They also give us donations during Idul Fitri and other Islamic celebration days.”

A’as said she personally knew some of the Ahmadis who regularly came for Friday prayers or weekly religious study.

“They’re very kind. They always say hello to us and we’ve become friends now,” she said.

Members of the Al-Hidayah mosque’s congregation come from many parts of the city.

Although seven mosques in Jakarta serve Ahmadiyah followers, only Al-Hidayah in Kebayoran Lama has been the target of recent attacks.

The mosque is located about 7 kilometers from the headquarters of the hardline Islam Defenders Front (FPI) on Jl. Petamburan III, Central Jakarta.

In June 2009, assailants set a fire in the mosque, damaging parts of the second floor. In early December, a group of men armed with swords and machetes threw stones at the mosque, smashing lights and window panes.

“The perpetrators are not from this area,” A’as said. “Why would we do it? [The Ahmadis] have been nothing but kind to us.”

“I know they’re different. But as long as they don’t go around looking for trouble, we won’t bother them. I think the people here just mind their own business.”

After Friday prayers, the Ahmadis went to a nearby Indonesian Red Cross office to donate blood. An Ahmadi woman said it was something the group regularly did.

Despite numerous stories of charity and kindness, threats of persecution still loom over Ahmadis in Jakarta.

In November, students staged a rally in front of Nuruddin Mosque in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, demanding its closure. In 2008, hundreds of people grouped under sealed the Baitul Qoyyum mosque in Serua, Ciputat, Southeast Tanggerang, Banten.

Imas Kartini, an Ahmadi from Pondok Labu, South Jakarta, said she has grown accustomed to threats of violence. “I feel sorry for my brothers and sisters and am anxious myself. But I live with it. Besides, the people in my neighborhood are very kind to me. We’ve gotten along well. I don’t believe they will do me any harm,” she added.

- JP/Arghea Desafti Hapsari

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