More than 5,000 demonstrators gathered outside Indonesia’s presidential palace yesterday to demand that the government outlaw a moderate Muslim sect they consider heretical.
Conservative Islamic parties participating in the protest want the Ahmadiyah sect to be banned because its does not adhere to the key Islamic belief that Mohammed was the last prophet.
Islam needs to be defended “from people who want to destroy Islam’s teachings,” said demonstrator Zairin, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name.
He also said those who use violence against heretics “have to do so to defend Islam.”
Hard-liners have attacked Ahmadiyah members and torched their mosques since the government said in April it was considering banning the faith. A decision is expected to be made public by the end of this month.
Indonesia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but many people in the predominantly Muslim nation consider Ahmadiyah’s interpretation of Islam offensive and want it prohibited.
Ahmadiyah, established in 1889 in Punjab, India, considers its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be a messiah, counter to traditional Islamic teaching. Ahmadiyah has millions of members around the world, with an estimated 200,000 in Indonesia.
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