World News

Indonesian sect leader jailed for "blasphemy"

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian court on Wednesday sentenced an Islamic sect leader to four years in prison for “blasphemy”.

Abdul Salam, who founded the Islamic sect al-Qiyadah al-Islamiah in 2000, was arrested last year after the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s authority on Islam, declared the group heretical.

Salam has declared himself a prophet and has not required his followers to pray, fast during the month of Muslim holy month of Ramadan, or perform the Haj pilgrimage, three of the five pillars of Islam, the prosecutor said.

The chief judge trying the case at the South Jakarta district court said Salam, also known as Ahmad Mosaddeq, was guilty of “deliberately committing acts which are blasphemous to the religion”.

“Throughout the trial the defendant did not admit even once that what he did was wrong,” he said.

Salam smiled after the verdict was read out, while radical Muslims fiercely opposed to his teachings shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great).

Salam’s supporters, who filled the court’s gallery, sang chants of praise for him.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation and groups branded as deviant or heretical periodically spring up.

In a separate development, a government team is drafting a decree that will ban Ahmadiyya, an Islamic sect founded in the 19th century in India, branded heretical by mainstream Muslims.

The plan to ban Ahmadiyya has been criticised by liberal Muslims, who accuse the government of bowing to pressure from radical groups.

A team with 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.

Mainstream Muslims reject Ahmadiyya’s claim of the prophethood of its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who died in 1908 in India. Most Muslims believe that Mohammad is the last of the Prophets.

In the past, Islamic radicals have damaged mosques and other facilities belonging to Ahmadiyyas in Indonesia.

Around 85 percent of Indonesia’s 226 million people are Muslims. Most of them are moderates who tolerate other beliefs.