The Islamic Reform Movement (Garis), a hard-line Muslim group based in Cianjur, had previously voiced its support for hose involved in the Cikeusik killings in February. Hundreds of Garis members had attended the trials of the 12 men, who were eventually convicted for their roles in the brutal attack but were jailed for only up to six months.
Firdaus Mubarik, a spokesman for the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI), said that Ahmadi youths in Cianjur had been coerced into joining Garis-sanctioned Koranic recitals and mass prayer meetings, and some had been physically threatened for refusing to attend.
“There are indications that violence is just around the corner in Cianjur. Garis has been visiting Ahmadis’ homes, telling them to renounce their faith. An Ahmadiyah boy was recently bullied, stones were thrown at JAI properties and homes have been vandalized,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.
Firdaus said that just days before the 12 men involved in the Cikeusik attack were sentenced to between three and six months in prison, at least four houses in Cianjur were burned down in suspicious circumstances.
But Chep Hermawan, chairman of Garis, played down the incidents, saying they were not arson. “Garis has always been the victim of rumors like that. Whenever there is something bad like an accidental fire at an Ahmadi’s house, people immediately say we are to blame. It was a fire, not arson,” he told the Globe.
Chep, who is also a wealthy businessman and influential figure in Cianjur, said his group only used peaceful means to persuade Ahmadiyah members to join mainstream Muslim groups.
“We are preaching the correct view of Islam,” he said. “We even offered those who leave Ahmadiyah a Rp 1 million ($120) loan because we understand some joined because the blasphemous sect had been generous to them.”
The JAI recorded more than 160 cases of violence against Ahmadiyah communities in the last 10 years. Some Muslims accuse the sect of believing its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be a prophet, contrary to the dogma that Muhammad was the last prophet. But the JAI has refuted this, saying its teachings are in line with mainstream beliefs.
Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian consultant for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the lenient sentences in the Cikeusik case had only emboldened hard-liners to further intimidate Ahmadis. “The verdict was like a license for groups such as Garis,” he said. “The government is sending a message that attacks against Ahmadiyah will not be properly punished.”