Thursday, June 12, 2008

Allowing terror doesn't help anyone...

Indonesia, as you know is the worlds largest Muslim country. It's easy to forget that this regional religion of the Arab peninsula has shifted it's centre population-wise, what with all the concern about Iraq, Iran, Irag, Irat, Irax, and every other Ira+letter combination that the western world (read: US) will be needlessly invading over the next few years.
Indonesia has a reputation as a fairly relaxed place for Muslims to be and live. A calmer, more cosmopolitan version of the religion if you will.
Until recently:
Sect in Indonesia fears attacks on its members - International Herald Tribune
Nearly 100 police officers guarded the road leading to this quiet, well-kept village in West Java on Tuesday to protect residents from possible attacks by hard-line Muslims.

More than 70 percent of the village's 4,000 people are members of Ahmadiyah, a Muslim sect that fundamentalists have denounced as heretical. Villagers have been attacked at least three times in the past, and on Tuesday, a day after Indonesia's government called on Ahmadiyah members to cease practicing their faith or face arrest, rumors swept through Manis Lor and surrounding towns that hard-line Muslim groups were planning protests, demonstrations or possibly an assault.
Indonesia is, after all, an officially Muslim country. This means that there is an official circle inside of which is recognized as legally Muslim and outside of which is fair game.
Moderates in this country, which is overwhelmingly Muslim but which guarantees religious freedom, argued that Ahmadiyah should be left alone. The hard-liners, many of whom are campaigning to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state, were pressing for an all-out ban and dissolution of Ahmadiyah.
The issue has gripped Indonesia. Television news stations play
continuous footage of extremists beating people at that rally with
sticks and screaming into cameras their demands that Ahmadiyah be
banned or face more attacks. The word "jihad" has been
repeatedly invoked.
I don't see that freedom of conscience cannot truly survive in such a situation. Not when the bigger goat crowd starts making noise.
I am, you may not have realized, no supporter of religion. I'm quite happy to watch it wither on the vine until it becomes some kind of eccentric little hobby for the spare-time endowed socially awkward, like tarot cards, dyed-pink chihuahuas or blogging.
Now in all the talk about Sunnis and Shi'as and Sufis you may be wondering how you've not heard of Ahmadiyah. It's simple, they're not well known. Hope that clears it up.
The Ahmadiyah Movement in Islam started at the tail end of the 19th Century in the borderlands between India and Pakistan. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad arose as a messianic figure preaching a completed vision of Islam. This is the first of the ways that the Ahmadiyah sect deviates from mainline Islamic teaching.
The second is organization. There is an ultimate authority in the sect, the Khalifatul, where mainline Islam is quite decentralized.
The Ahmadi are extremely pacifistic, and don't proselytize much, following the Koranic admonitions that there is no compulsion in religion. As a result they have been deafeningly, overwhelmingly ignored by the Blair/Brown outreach programs that have sought to build ties with the Muslim community.
When in London, Mrs Gaijin and I live next to the Ahmadiyya mosque and headquarters. The members of the community, other than filling all the parking five times a day, are the best neighbours.
They are polite to a person, community oriented, and seem to like our dog. All of this gives them bonus points to me. Let's face it: London is only tolerable because of the foreigners.
A number of the community is professional; a number is refugees escaping the inevitable persecution they face in Pakistan, Afghanistan and soon Indonesia, where they are considered apostates or heretics.
So now you know.

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