British MP Siobhain Mcdonagh, who is also chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said the light sentences was in stark contrast with Indonesia’s “reputation for tolerance.
“I am shocked at the sentences given to the perpetrators of these brutal murders. These verdicts show a disturbing shift in the country’s commitment to freedom of religion and justice.”
The light sentences, which raged from three to six months, were issued last week by a court in Serang District Court, Banten to 12 men found guilty of attacking members of Ahmadiyah community in Cikeusik, West Java.
The attack was captured on video, shocking the world, as it showed the mob hacking three of the members to death.
Now the trivial sentences have once again attracted global condemnation.
The National President of the Muslim Community in the UK, Rafiq Hayat said the “ineffectual sentences” handed out by the Indonesian justice system had essentially condoned mob violence and religious intolerance by extremists.
“Victims of recent attacks also include Christians and members of other faiths, but can include anyone who may disagree with the extremists.”
Rafiq said Indonesia must become the leading light for the Muslim world and permit true freedom of religion.
“It must not fall prey to the extremist mindset that will fan the flames of intolerance and will eventually consume the nation.”
Vice-Chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Human Rights Lord Eric Avebury commented that the verdict was a huge setback for Indonesia in particular its justice system.
“The fact that a longer sentence is being sought by prosecutors for an Ahmadi Muslim who defended his property during the attacks than for those who killed three innocent Ahmadi Muslims is deplorable.”
Lord Eric said what was more frightening was the ‘legal shadow’ cast over the whole of the Ahmadiyah community ever since extremists have attempted to make the faith illegal.
“We see where this has led in Pakistan, with wholesale massacres, assassinations, destruction of mosques and exclusion from public life,” he said. “Indonesia for its own sake must avoid going down the same path.”
As a signatory to the International convention on Civil and Political rights, Lord Eric said Indonesia must uphold its obligations.
“Its constitution guarantees freedom of expression but the reality seems to be that the government is caving in to pressure from religious extremists under the threat of violence,” he said.” The Ahmadiyah community must be given full freedom of religion as must Christians and all citizens of Indonesia.”
The Ahmadiyah community is a global Islamic religious movement that despite being in Indonesia since its creation has remained a minority group.
It numbers around 200,000 out of Indonesia’s population of 220 million.
In 2008 the minority group became subject to the Joint Ministerial decree which forbids Ahmadiyah followers from promoting their activities and spreading their faith.
Critics of the degree have blamed it for inciting religious intolerance and attacks on the minority group.
Siobhan said in the aftermath of the Cikeusik attacks she summoned Indonesia to honor its commitments to freedom of religion, and to repeal its 2008 Joint Ministerial decree against the Ahmadiyah community and to hold those committing acts of violence against religious communitis to be held to account.
“This motion has been widely supported with 45 MPs signing up,” she said. “Indonesia must step up to the challenge of tackling extremists who threaten the peace of the country.”