A shocking verdict rendered by an Indonesian court underscores the rising tide of violence and discrimination against religious minorities in Indonesia, long purported to be the world’s most tolerant Muslim nation.
In February 2011, Deden Sudjana, a 48-year old Indonesian male, was one of twenty members of a Muslim minority sect called the Ahmadiyah who were violently attacked by an enraged Muslim mob while they gathered in a house in the Indonesian village of Cikeusik.
The fury of the mob attack — which ironically occurred during Indonesia’s Interfaith Harmony Week — was engendered by the presence of Ahmadiyah in Cikeusik. The Ahmadiyah, with 200,000 followers in Indonesia, is considered heretical by many Muslims because of its belief that Muhammad was not the final prophet.
While Sudjana and a handful of Ahmadiyah men tried to defend the property with stones and slingshots, they were quickly overwhelmed by nearly 1,500 Muslims, all armed with clubs, machetes and rocks.
In a terrifying scene caught on video, three Ahmadiyah men were killed and the others badly beaten. As the mob danced around the dead men, laughing and chanting “God is Great,” Indonesian police merely stood and watched.
However, the Indonesian police did manage to arrest Sudjana — whose hand was nearly severed by a machete in the attack — for ostensibly inciting the mob to violence by not leaving the home upon the mob’s arrival.
While that action may have been surprising, it was overshadowed in early August when an Indonesian court sentenced Sudjana to six months in jail. It was a verdict that understandably shocked Sudjana, given the fact that 12 members of the attacking mob had been given sentences between three to six months.
In fact, one of those attackers who had crushed in the skull of an Ahmadiyah man with a rock was released from prison days before Sudjana’s sentencing. Upon his return to Cikeusik, he was treated as a conquering hero by his fellow villagers. As one man said of the attack, “I do feel bad people had to die, but we had to clean our village.”
So, as he was being escorted from the courtroom, an incredulous Sudjana asked aloud, “I’m the victim. Why am I getting a higher sentence than some of the perpetrators?”
Mistreatment of the Ahmadiyah has escalated dramatically since 2008 when the Indonesian government decreed the Ahmadiyah to be a deviant sect whose followers could face up to five years in prison for practicing their faith. Since then, over a hundred violent incidents against the Ahmadiyah have been recorded, incidents which include the torching of mosques and homes.
One of the bigger driving forces behind those attacks has been the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a violent and hard-line Islamic militant group founded in 1998 whose stated goal is the implementation of Sharia law in Indonesia.
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