Recent events in Indonesia which have witnessed attempts to declare illegal, the Ahmdiyah sect, have raised fears the nation which long has been noted for its religious tolerance may be entering a new phase in which fundamentalists exert more power. The Ahmadiyah sect, a messianic movement founded in India, entered Indonesia in the early years of the 20th century and its followers have endeavored to spread their message in a mood of love and peace. Today, the Islamic sect, is on the brink of being offically outlawed by the government, and mobs have burnt mosques and beaten members of the sect.
Muslim scholar, Luthfi Assyaukane, believes these events suggest a weakening on the part of the governmen to support traditional beliefs in religious freedom. “The Indonesian Uema Council(MUI) and the Indonesian Propagation Council(DDII) are controlled by those who defy the Islamic rejuvenation movement. They also dominate state agencies with certain religious authorities.”
Thamrin Amai Tamagola, an anthropologist, believes violence against the sect stems from fears of their economic success. “The society is divided vertically by wealth and horizontally be ethnic, race, and religion. The horizontal conflicts that lead to violence usually occur when there is a wide gap in terms of wealth between to different groups.”
The Ahmadiyah have been economically successful through their cooperative efforts and working to assist fellow members. This has triggered feelings of anger toward them. A worry of some experts is concern the Indonesian government will use religious intolerance to divert people’s anger over risng fuel prices and shortages of rice.