Arya Dipa, Bandung – Authorities in Tasikmalaya, West Java, have banned the renovation of a mosque in Cipakat vilage, Singaparna district, that belongs to a local Ahmadiyah congregation, a minority Muslim group that has long been persecuted for its beliefs.
The ban was enacted in a joint decree signed on Jan. 27 by authorities in the regency, including Tasikmalaya Regent Ade Sugianto.
The representatives of the local Ahmadiyah group received a copy of the decree on Saturday.
Nanang Ahmad Hidayat, the chairman of the local Ahmadiyah group, said the decree included nine key provisions, one of which prohibited any members of the group from performing religious activities in public.
The renovation of their mosque, the Al-Aqso Mosque, was also halted as the administration wanted to prevent public outrage, he said.
The ban is reportedly based on Law No. 28/2002 on the construction of buildings, as well as a joint decree issued by the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Home Ministry on religious harmony.
Nanang said he was confounded by the ban. He said the mosque had had a building permit since 1980.
"The mosque has existed since 1970. The last renovation took place in 2005. We planned another renovation in 2019 because the roof [was leaking]. It won't be a major renovation," he said.
He added that the group already kept all religious events private to avoid public controversy. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the mosque had only occasionally hosted group prayers with limited attendance as most members were practicing physical distancing, he said.
Aip Mubarok, the head of human resources development at the Tasikmalaya chapter of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Islamic organization, said the activities of the local Ahmadiyah group had never seemed to bother anyone in the region.
He said the administration's ban contradicted a 2008 joint decree issued by the religious affairs minister, the attorney general and the home minister on the activities of Ahmadiyah groups.
The controversial decree – which critics call a violation of religious freedom – bans Ahmadis from evangelizing their beliefs, but it does not explicitly stipulate any ban on practicing their faith.
Aip called on the Tasikmalaya administration to engage in a dialogue with the local Ahmadiyah group instead of imposing the ban.
"It's for the sake of mutual understanding, so that the rights of Ahmadiyah members may be protected in accordance with the law," Aip added.
Ahmadiyah groups have long been persecuted in the country, with some local administrations sealing mosques belonging to the minority group and justifying their actions using the 2008 joint ministerial decree prohibiting Ahmadiyah adherents from spreading their beliefs.
The decree referred to a 2005 Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) fatwa declaring the teachings of Ahmadiyah heretical.
Earlier this month, authorities in Sukabumi, West Java, reportedly prevented the reconstruction of a mosque belonging to an Ahmadiyah group in the regency, highlighting the continued repression of the minority Muslim group since the mosque was set ablaze by a mob in 2008. (rfa)