On Sunday, members of the Ahmadiyya community- an Islamic movement considered a sect by Islam traditionalists- became victims of an extremely violent lynching, as police looked on helplessly. Our Observer received footage of this barbaric act from of one of the survivors of the massacre.
The assault took place on Sunday morning in the village of Cikeusik, west of the Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. Twenty one members of the Ahmadiyya community met in the house of one of the leaders. A large crowd of local residents, armed with knives, swords and sticks, stormed the house to protest against the “infidels”. According to the police, there were nearly a thousand of them.
The Ahmadiyya religious community claims to be a branch of Islam, but it is regarded as heretical by Orthodox Muslims. According to the Ahmadis, Mohammed was not the last prophet. They consider Mirza Ghulum Ahmed, the founder of the Ahmadi movement, as the promised Messiah, the “second coming of Christ”.
There are about 20 million Ahmadis in the world and 200,000 in Indonesia. In many countries, such as Pakistan, they are persecuted by religious fundamentalists. Last month, fundamentalists from the Islamic Defence Front drove members of the the Ahmadiyya community out of their mosque in the Indonesian town of Makassar.
WARNING: THE VIOLENCE IN THIS VIDEO MAY BE CONSIDERED DISTURBING
This video was given to Andreas Harsono, a Human Rights Watch activist from Jakarta, by eyewitnesses of the attack. It shows the Ahmadi house and vehicles being stormed by an armed mob. FRANCE 24 decided to show only selected screen shots of the final minutes of the clip, which are extremely violent. They show two apparently lifeless body beaten beyond recognition by an angry crowd, as police looked on. According to a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya community, only 20 policemen were sent to the scene of the mob.
Post written with France 24 journalist Ségolène Malterre.
"The authorities opened the door to this violence and in a way legitimized it"
Andreas Harsono is a journalist, blogger and active member of Human Rights Watch. He is not part of the Ahmadiyya community.I have worked a lot on the persecution of this community and I know some members. I know them so well that after the massacre on Sunday, three Ahmadis - three educated young men who live in Jakarta but were originally from the village - came to my house to alert me. But I was in Sumatra, my wife informed me of the situation and I came back immediately. On my return, I heard eyewitness accounts and I was given this footage. They were looking for somebody credible to spread this information. They spent the night in my living room and left on Monday morning.Last week, they returned to their village to help their families, because for a few days they had heard rumours that there would be an attack against the Ahmadiyya community. The lectures accusing the Ahmadis of having ‘haram’ (impure) blood were becoming more frequent and were stirring up hatred against them. But they had no idea that the attack would be so violent.
We sent the video to an Indonesian television channel. But they only broadcast the beginning, the moment where the attackers arrive in front of the house of the imam and the Ahmadis come out to defend themselves. The editors were scared of stirring up hatred by showing the most shocking scenes. I have since posted the video on the internet to shows the determination of the assailants, who chant 'infidel, infidel'. They all have a blue sash tied around their chests, which to me confirms that it was an organized attack.
“These heinous crimes are becoming more frequent”
What is surprising is that none of the eyewitnesses mentioned the presence of any particular group of extremists, which makes me think that they are ‘ordinary’ believers, believers indoctrinated by increasingly hateful preachers who pronounce that the Ahmadis ruin the faith of other Muslims.
I don’t have proof that the police were complicit in the assault, but many of the Ahmadi community are convinced they were, because of their passivity during the lynching. What is certain is that in the past ten years, no one caught attacking an Ahmadi has been sentenced.
In 2008, the Indonesian government issued a decree which classified the Ahmadi as blasphemers and introduced a five year imprison sentence for anyone teaching this religious doctrine. Since then, they have faced daily discrimination.
They cannot employ people of their farms, their children are bullied in school and these hate crimes have become increasingly frequent in the country. It is the authorities who have opened the door to this violence and given it legitimacy.