Clerics Call for Calm after Muslim Sect Leader Detained

JAKARTA ~ Indonesia’s highest authority on Islam called for calm this week esday after the leader of a controversial Muslim sect who claims to be a prophet was taken into police custody amid protests against the group.

The leader of the Al Qiyadah Al Islamiyah sect, Ahmad Mushaddeq, and six of his followers handed themselves over to police late on Monday for questioning and were still being detained, local media reports said.

The Muslim sect was declared deviant in a religious edict by the country’s chief authority on Islam, the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI), two months ago. State prosecutors have since called for police to question its leadership.

Mushaddeq’s contention that he is a prophet – which runs counter to mainstream Islamic teachings that Mohammed was the final prophet – could see him jailed for up to five years under Indonesia’s contempt of religion laws.

“We should not react to this in an anarchic way,” a deputy MUI chairman, H. Amidhan, said on Wednesday.

“In our opinion, the leaders (of Al Qiyadah) should be arrested while the followers, who are mere victims, should not be persecuted,” Amidhan said, referring to several attacks and threats of violence against followers.

Angry Muslims vandalized a building used by the sect for meditation in the hill town of Bogor near Jakarta on Tuesday, while street protests demanding the disbanding of the sect have been held in several towns in Java, local reports said.

Amidhan said that the sect’s followers, which police estimate number about 40,000, should be “persuaded to repent and return to the true faith through peaceful and refreshing means, not violence.”

National police chief Sutanto told reporters that the case was still under investigation.

“What is clear is that this (the sect’s teachings) is against existing religious teachings…. We hope that the sect followers repent and return to the true path,” he said.

Nasaruddin Umar, the Religious Affairs Ministry’s director general for guidance of Muslims, reportedly said that repenting sect members should profess faith in Allah as the one true God and recognise Mohammed as his final prophet.

“They should apologize immediately and repeat the Shahadat (verses professing faith) so that they do not incur charges based on legal articles related to contempt of religion,” he was quoted by the Pikiran Rakyat daily as saying.

Several similar sects have emerged in Indonesia in the past few years, which Amidhan said was a result of tough economic conditions.

About 90 percent of Indonesia’s population are Muslim. Most practice a tolerant form of the religion, which sometimes incorporates Hindu and animist beliefs.

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