Maj. Gen. Moeldoko, chief of the Siliwangi Regional Command, said on Monday that the use of violence against the minority Muslim sect would attract unwanted attention from international human rights groups.
“We should be handling [the Ahmadiyah] with gloved hands, and not with violence,” he said. “Through the preaching of Islamic teachings, let their faith be weakened. [We must] guide them to follow the right path.”
“I believe this is a far more elegant and respectful way, even in the eyes of the world. We already have the tools to implement this plan,” he added.
Moeldoko was speaking after he met with West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan, the provincial police chief and other officials on Monday to discuss implementing a ban on the sect’s activities.
Ahmad had issued a gubernatorial regulation on Friday barring Ahmadis from practicing their faith in the province.
The ban, adopted by at least 10 other regional governments, was based on a 2008 joint ministerial decree declaring the Ahmadiyah a deviant sect for its divergent view on Islamic prophets. The decree prohibits Ahmadis from spreading their beliefs.
In a tactic he dubbed “an attack of prayer rugs,” Moeldoko suggested converting the sect to Islam by opening their mosques to mainstream Muslims.
“I ask all of you [Muslims] to sit inside their mosques, which are exclusive for the Ahmadis,” he said. “Let us fill their mosques with Islamic activities and the correct teachings of Islam.”
Similarly, the West Java governor said the sect’s mosques should be accessible to all mainstream believers.
“All mosques believed to belong to the Ahmadiyah can be used by anybody and everybody,” he said. “A mosque, after all, should not belong to a certain community. It is open to each and every Muslim.”
The governor also said the sect’s members should be invited to join other Muslims during Friday afternoon prayers.
“Let us put all of our prayer mats side by side. Islam after all, does not teach exclusivity. It does not teach us to close ourselves up,” he said.
The Ahmadiyah, founded in India in 1889, has been targeted by hard-liners in a series of bloody riots and clashes across the archipelago in recent months.
In the latest sign of simmering religious tensions, a group of people in Bandung were forced to dig up the body of an Ahmadi from a tomb on Thursday and abandon it in a graveyard.
The Ahmadiyah said the incident was “troubling” and constituted an attack on the sect.
“If this matter had been communicated to us, or if the body had been buried on land belonging to the Ahmadiyah, we wouldn’t have this problem,” Ahmad said on Monday.
Over the past few weeks, Islamic organizations have demanded that the government disband the sect, triggering heated public debate on religious rights in Indonesia.
Contrary to his peers in other regions, however, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo vowed not to ban Ahmadis from practicing their faith.
He said Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, had warned officials against enforcing such prohibitions.
“His instructions were clear. There should not be a gubernatorial decree or any kind of regulation issued in this country that would violate the Constitution,” Fauzi said on Monday.
He said the 2008 ministerial decree listed “everything needed to ensure security, order and harmony” in the capital.
Earlier, Fauzi had suggested following East and West Java’s lead in issuing regulations to ban Ahmadiyah activities. However, Fauzi backtracked on Monday after his proposal earned widespread public criticism.