Indonesia province bans small Islamic sect from 'spreading faith'

Indonesian polive secure the wharf used for ferries to Sabang Island in Banda Aceh on Sumatra.
Indonesian polive secure the wharf used for ferries to Sabang Island in Banda Aceh on Sumatra. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - A tiny Indonesian province has banned a minority Islamic sect from conducting religious activities, a move activists say raises concerns over intolerance in the Muslim-majority nation.

The move by Bangka-Belitung, made up of two main islands off South Sumatra, is the latest in a series in which religious minorities including Christians and Shi'ite Muslims have faced harassment and complained of a lack of protection.

"The Ahmadiyah have a right to live in Bangka," Mr Fery Insani, a senior official in the local government, told Reuters.

"In a meeting with community leaders and religious figures, all of us have agreed that it is forbidden for them to conduct activities like spreading their faith."

Indonesia has the world's largest population of Muslims, the majority of whom adhere to moderate Sunni beliefs. But hardline Indonesian Muslims accuse Ahmadiyah and other Muslim minorities of apostasy.

Around 1,000 members of a group called Gafatar were evacuated from their homes following violence in West Kalimantan last week, media said. The authorities have outlawed the organisation, which they describe as radical and dangerous.

Members of the tiny Ahmadiyah community on the tin-rich Bangka island said they had faced intimidation and official pressure to leave their homes, according to rights groups. "We hope the police can guarantee security for the Ahmadiyah people in Bangka and that the local government guarantee our rights as citizens," said Mr Yendra Budiana, a Jakarta-based spokesman for the Indonesia Ahmadiyah Community.

A spokesman for the Religious Affairs Ministry declined to comment on the issue.

Hundreds of hardline Muslims forced the local government to tear down several churches in the conservative province of Aceh last year, claiming they lacked proper building permits.