Indonesian Muslim sect leader gets four years in jail for blasphemy

Arab World Materials 23 April 2008 14:45 (UTC +04:00)

An Indonesian Muslim, who declared himself to be a prophet after Mohammed, was sentenced Wednesday to four years in jail for blasphemy, reported the dpa.

The South Jakarta district court found Ahmad Mushaddeq, the leader of outlawed Muslim sect al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah, of violating laws against inciting public hostility and tarnishing the image of Islam, Indonesia's majority religion.

Chief Judge Zahrul Rabain said when reading the court's ruling that Mushaddeq, alias Al Masih al Maw'ud, had been proven "legally and convincingly guilty of committing criminal acts ... intentionally insulting religion."

Dozens of activists from the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) hardliner group, shouted "Allahu Akbar!," (God is Great), soon after judge Rabain handed down a four-year term in prison for Mushaddeq.

Government prosecutors had accused Mushaddeq of claiming himself a prophet and told his followers there was no requirement for them to go on a haj to Mecca, nor to pray five times each day.

According to Islamic teachings, Muslims are obliged to pray five times a day, and the haj to Mecca is required for Muslims at least once in their lives, if they can afford it. Another key tenet of mainstream Islam is that Mohammad was the final prophet, and will not be followed by any other messengers from God.

The Indonesian Council of Ulemas, the country's highest authority on Islam, declared late last year that al-Qiyahad was a "misguided" sect, saying it had defied one of Islam's six pillars of faith and followed teachings that run counter to mainstream Islamic beliefs.

In November, Mushaddeq and several disciples surrendered themselves to Jakarta city police after angry Muslims vandalized a building used by the sect for meditation in the hill town of Bogor near the capital.

Also in November, Indonesian authorities issued a ban against the group, estimated to have about 40,000 followers in the country.

Nearly 90 per cent of Indonesia's 225 million people are Muslim. Most practice a tolerant form of the religion, which incorporates some Hindu and animist beliefs.