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Ensure Freedom of Religion and Protect Religious Minorities in Indonesia – human rights group

A regional human rights organisation today condemned the terrorist attack apparently targeting on a leading liberal Islamic activist, Mr. Ulil Abshar Abdalla.

The Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) called on the Indonesian Government to take an immediate and impartial investigation behind the incident. FORUM-ASIA also urged to the Government take action to effectively reduce the mounting tension in Indonesia among different religious groups.

On 15 March 2011, a book package was delivered to the office of Mr. Abdalla, co-founder of the Liberal Islamic Network in Utan Kayu, East Jakarta. The package was addressed to Mr. Abdhalla and asked him to write a preface for a book, titled “They deserved to be killed: Because of their sins to Islam and Muslims”. Mr. Abdalla reported the suspicious nature of the book package which turned out to be a bomb.

The book bomb exploded as police attempted to defuse it. The explosion from the book bomb injured four people, including one policeman and three security guards. The terror attack is suspected as a related to mounting pressure to ban the Ahmadiyah sect in Indonesia.

Recently, serious concerns have been raised regarding religious intolerance in Indonesia, especially after provincial administrations issued local decrees banning members of the Ahmadiyah sect from conducting their religious activities. Since 2006, a total 16 provincial and district governments have banned Ahmadiyah activities. After the brutal attack on an Ahmadiyah group on 6 February 2011, Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali urged the cabinet to issue a national ban on the Ahmadiyah. After the incident, FORUM-ASIA noted that attacks against religious minorities have been on an upward trend in Indonesia.

Yap Swee Seng, FORUM-ASIA Executive Director said that “the book bomb sent to a known advocate of religious pluralism is an obvious message against religious tolerance.” He also raised concerns about the continuing harassment against religious minority groups including human rights activists.

“Indonesian authorities should take measures to effectively stop violence against religious minority groups,” Yap said. He added that the provincial regulations restricting religious freedom should be immediately rescinded, saying that “the Indonesian Government must take concrete measures in order to ensure right to freedom of religion.”

FORUM-ASIA had earlier demanded the repeal of a 2008 ministerial decree banning activities of the Ahmadiya, in accordance with the principle of religious pluralism in the Indonesian Constitution and freedom of belief in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The regional group stressed that Indonesian Government must guarantee freedom of religion and alleviate tensions among religious groups in Indonesia.