Roni Pasaroni, Rahmawati’s late husband, was one of three Ahmadiyah members murdered by a 1,500-strong mob in Cikeusik, Banten, on Feb. 6.
“Before my husband found Ahmadiyah, he used to be a thug. He used to do drugs. When he married me, he promised to change his ways,” Rahmawati told the Jakarta Globe on Monday in Muara Baru, North Jakarta.
Four years ago, Roni and his friend Warsono, an Ahmadi, found themselves on the way to a mosque of the minority Islamic sect.
“He arrived home, as I was doing my evening prayers,” she said. “I heard him performing ablution and he came to pray beside me. But then I could not continue. Because I heard him sobbing.”
She waited for Roni to finish and asked him what was going on. He told her that he was touched by how the imam at the Ahmadiyah mosque presented Islam, and that he now realized he should also think about the hereafter.
Like Roni, Warsono was killed in the February attack on a house of a member of the controversial sect. Rahmawati, who followed Roni in his conversion, has refused to watch videos of the killings that have since gone viral on the Internet.
“I don’t think the perpetrators were normal people. If you are human, when one already pleads for mercy, then you stop,” Rahmawati said.
A Firm Believer
At some point, Roni’s neighbors in Muara Baru learned he had joined Ahmadiyah. Rahmawati said several came to visit and tried to convince Roni that the sect he joined was deviant.
“But he was persistent. They spent hours outside discussing. I was afraid — with Roni’s background as a thug — he would end up hitting someone. But in the end the men shook hands and hugged each other,” she said.
Roni and his neighbors managed to “agree to disagree.”
“We would leave our door and windows open, so people could see and hear the way we pray and recite the Koran. So that they know we are the same. We are not exclusive or different,” Rahmawati added.
Roni would remind his neighbors when it was time to pray. “He would say: hold your hunger, you should pray first,” she said.
Hendro, head of the North Jakarta Ahmadiyah congregation, said Roni started to read books on Islam.
“We have a library and he finished book after book. He found time to read while waiting for customers, as he was a motorcycle taxi driver,” Hendro said.
Rahmawati remembers being visited by a stranger, back in 2008. “He told us that Ahmadiyah was deviant and that we should return to mainstream Islam. But I asked him if he could guarantee us a place in heaven if we left Ahmadiyah. He said no. So I asked him to leave,” she said.
To say that these are difficult times for Ahmadis in Indonesia is an understatement.
On Monday, some 500 police officers stood guard outside the Ahmadiyah’s Al-Mubarak Mosque in Bogor as local administrators sanctioned the official sealing of the house of worship.
Edgar Suratman, an official with the Bogor city administration, said he was “just following up on the West Java gubernatorial decree and the Bogor municipality’s decision to ban all activities of the Ahmadiyah.”
Despite the growing persecution of the sect across a string of provinces nationwide, Rahmawati said she still felt safe in her neighborhood.
“Roni grew up here. He knew a lot of people, his friends, neighbors and our families have all accepted us as Ahmadis,” she said.
“Besides, other Ahmadiyah friends regularly visit me here.”
Her youngest daughter, Tati Apriani, 5, will enter elementary school this year while her eldest, 9-year-old Mahdarisa, is now in third grade.
“When [Mahdarisa’s] friends ask her about Ahmadiyah, she tells them: it’s just another organization.”
But for her father, who according to his widow had said, “When we die, we do not take worldly things with us. Only our deeds,” it was much more than that.
Additional reporting by Vento Saudale