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Jakarta: A minority Muslim group has been ordered to convert to Sunni Islam or be expelled from Bangka island, off the coast of Sumatra, in the latest religious crackdown in Indonesia.
Ahmadiyah identify as Muslim and follow the teachings of the Koran but regard an Indian preacher, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a "messiah" who followed the Prophet Muhammad, a belief considered heretical by some Muslims.
In a letter seen by Fairfax Media, Bangka Island's most senior bureaucrat, Fery Insani, says: "The Ahmadiyah congregation are not allowed to spread their religion. Ahmadiyah followers in Srimenanti village must immediately repent in accordance with Islamic sharia that there is no prophet after the prophet Muhammad." He said if they did not abide by this a meeting had decided they must immediately leave Bangka and return to their place of origin.
The threatened expulsion comes as former members of Gafatar – a religious minority group labelled a "deviant sect" in Indonesia – were forcibly evicted from West Kalimantan last week when their homes were burned down by a rampaging mob.
Asro Matnur, an Ahmadiyah from Bangka island, said tensions began when the Ahmadiyah community distributed beef to their neighbours during Idul Adha, a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide.
"We did that without preaching about Ahmadiyah," he said.
"But later on a local government official came to us and said that we violated the agreement of religious harmony that we should not preach our faith to people of a different faith."
Mr Asro said Bangka regent Tarmizi Saat told them: "If you don't leave, we will not be responsible for what happens."
He did not know what this meant but feared anarchists could "bring down our homes".
"If that happens, why is it us who are blamed? We don't violate any law but it is us who will be arrested."
Mr Asro, a cassava farmer who has lived on Bangka island since 1992, said the government did not tell the Ahmadiyah where they should go.
"If I have to go, I don't know where to," he said.
"Many Ahmadiyah followers fought for the independence war in Indonesia. Why can't we have the same rights as other Indonesians?"
The Indonesian state ideology, Pancasila, only recognises six official faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
However Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, Phelim Kline, said Indonesia's constitution guaranteed freedom of religion.
"President Joko Widodo needs to urgently intervene to uphold the Ahmadiyah's rights and to punish officials who advocate religious discrimination."
In 2008 the former Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono government announced a decree restricting Ahmadiyah activities outside of Ahmadi communities.
Following the decree, three Ahmadiyah were killed by a frenzied group of Islamists in Cikeusik in 2011, while hundreds of onlookers cheered.
Professor Tim Lindsey, director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at Melbourne University, said the cases of persecution of so-called deviant sects and minority groups had increased markedly post Suharto.
"There has been a rise of more assertive conservative Islamic groups, which now have much more influence on government," Dr Lindsey said. Indonesia's top Islamic clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), had been particularly aggressive against these groups, with a pattern of issuing fatwas.
"They get declared deviant and then communities are attacked, houses get burned down or worse. Often the leaders are prosecuted for blasphemy and their followers unable to return to their homes. The police and local authorities are often unwilling to act to protect them. It is now sadly predictable and has happened dozens of times," Dr Lindsey said.
"It reflects the rise of conservative Islamic orthodox Sunni views."