Police have taken 21 suspects into custody after a crowd of hardline Muslims vandalized a mosque belonging to the Ahmadiyya Islamic sect last week in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province, a local police chief said.
More than 100 people claiming to represent Islamic groups vandalized the mosque in Balai Harapan village of Sintang regency on Friday, police said. A video purportedly of the attack and widely circulated online showed men armed with sticks smashing the mosque’s windows as police and soldiers looked on, and a nearby building in flames.
Confirming the arrests, provincial police spokesman Donny Charles Go told BenarNews that “all the suspects have been detained.” More arrests were expected, he added.
Donny said that three people suspected of instigating the attack were among those picked up thus far.
“We will not allow anarchic actions. Police will enforce the law by arresting the perpetrators of vandalism as soon as possible in order to protect the security of all residents,” he said.
Citing witness accounts, Yendra Budiana, a spokesman for the Indonesian Ahmadiyya Community based in Jakarta, said security personnel did not appear to intervene when the mob started to vandalize the mosque.
“After Friday prayers, more than 100 people moved toward the mosque. They were intercepted, but in the end, they were not stopped,” Yendra told BenarNews.
He said some in the crowd threatened to return in 30 days if authorities failed to demolish the mosque.
Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas condemned the attack.
“The action of people who take the law into their own hands by destroying a house of worship and property belonging to others cannot be justified and is a clear violation of the law,” Yaqut said in a statement on Friday.
“Differences in faiths should not become the reason for the majority group to persecute and to pass judgment on other groups. This is the government’s first basic view that it will uphold,” Yaqut told BenarNews in an interview in June.
Activists and members of the minority group say that decrees still in force branding Ahmadi beliefs as deviant and banning proselytizing have set the stage for persecution.