Five suspects named for torching Indonesian sect's mosque

Other News Materials 29 April 2008 12:54 (UTC +04:00)

Indonesian police on Tuesday named five suspects linked to burning a mosque belonging to the Islamic splinter group Ahmadiyah, which has been branded heretical by most Muslims, dpa reported.

"The five people had been named suspects after police questioning eight persons in connection with the incident," said West Java's Sukabumi district police chief Guntor Gaffar.

About 300 people set fire early Monday to a mosque belonging to Ahmadiyah sect in West Java district of Sukabumi, heavily damaging a school building inside the group's compound.

No casualties were reported in the latest vandalism against the Ahmadiyah sect in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Up to 10 other people were being questioned as witnesses, Gaffar was quoted as saying by the state-run Antara news agency.

The vandalism sparked condemnation from religious leaders as well as from human rights activists in the country.

Three days earlier, dozens of Muslim activists had gathered outside the compound, accusing the Ahmadiyah followers of heretical teachings and demanding they stop their activity and remove a signboard from the mosque.

Ahmadiyah has been declared heretical for believing its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who died in 1908 in India, is the last prophet, not Mohammed, who mainstream Muslims worldwide believe was God's final messenger.

Earlier this month, a team of officials from two government ministries and the attorney general's office has recommended the government ban the sect because its teachings deviate from the central tenets of Islam.

The Ahmadiyah views itself as Muslim but has been branded heretical by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the secular country's highest Muslim authority, which has issued a fatwa, or edict, against it.

Ahmadiyah spokesman Shamsir Ali blamed the recommendation to ban the group on the grounds that it is heretical had led to the escalation of the destruction of the group's properties - mosques, school buildings and homes.

Ahmadiyah, with an estimated 200,000 followers in Indonesia, has also faced persecution in other Muslim countries. About 88 per cent of Indonesia's 225 million people are Muslims, most of them moderates who tolerate other beliefs.