Seven arrested in raid on sect of 'last prophet'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2007, 12:00am

Indonesian police have arrested seven members of the Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah, an Islamic sect led by Ahmad Moshaddeq, a man who claims to be the last prophet.

Sources said Moshaddeq, whose real name is Salam, was among those arrested, although the police have yet to confirm this.

The arrests come after months of tension between the sect and the country's mainstream Islamic groups, which have been vocal in condemning the newcomer.

On October 4 the Indonesian Ulama Council, the main government-sanctioned religious institution, issued a fatwa, or decree, labelling the Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah 'heretic'.

Anwar Ibrahim, head of the council's fatwa division, said that the decision followed months of study and was based on the sect's deviant views.

'Moshaddeq claims to be a prophet, while Muslims believe that our last prophet was Mohammed. He also says that prayers are not compulsory and that the existing interpretations of the Koran are wrong,' Mr Ibrahim said.

He also confirmed that the council had asked the police to intervene. 'We asked the police to be vigilant and stop the spread of these beliefs, because we are afraid that the people under his influence may do irresponsible acts.'

After the fatwa was issued, police in Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah's home base in Bogor, West Java, sealed off two villas belonging to Moshaddeq, allegedly to prevent any attacks on the properties by orthodox Muslims.

Meanwhile in Padang, West Sumatra, the provincial prosecutor's office formally banned the sect and police raided the group's headquarters. Eleven people were taken into custody but were released soon after.

The council's fatwa was followed by decrees from several other moderate Islamic groups, who added their weight to the charge of heresy.

On Sunday, Indonesia's largest moderate Muslim organisation, the 40 million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), and the Indonesian Islamic Propagation Institute (LDII) declared 'war on deviant teachings'.

'We must fight against the misleading teachings as they have created conflict among Muslims,' NU's associate chairman Said Aqiel Siradj said.

LDII general chairman Abdullah Syam added that 'the government and MUI must take stern measures against Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah'.

Along the same line, the Indonesia Muslim Alliance (Alumi) filed a report with the police on Monday. Alumi, which consists of 46 Muslim organisations, accused Moshaddeq and his followers of blasphemy.

Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah surfaced in 2000 and has rapidly grown to claim about 4,000 followers, spread throughout Java and Sumatra.

The sect came to prominence on July 23 when its leader, after claiming to spend 40 days and nights in meditation at Mount Bunder, West Java, claimed to be the last prophet.

In his teachings, Moshaddeq also says that praying once at night, instead of five times a day, is adequate. Although he is critical of Islam's sacred texts, he has always denied that the sect is blasphemous.

Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah is only the the most recent of several sects to emerge in Indonesia since the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998.

Experts claim the phenomenon is a sign of increased religious freedom, which has led to an attempt to mould Islam into a religion closer to Indonesian culture and ancient animist beliefs. The inability of most Indonesians to read Arabic script is also believed to be a reason behind the various interpretations.