Contemporary Islam

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 133–152 | Cite as

Hating the Ahmadiyya: the place of “heretics” in contemporary Indonesian Muslim society

  • Ahmad Najib Burhani


Religious diversity and pluralism is commonly understood within the context of the relation between various religious traditions, not within a single religious tradition. This limitation of the boundary of religious pluralism could overlook the fact that conflict within a single tradition can be bitterer and more disastrous than conflict with other religions. In the last decade, for instance, the Ahmadis in Indonesia have become victims of constant attacks. This article, therefore, intends to study the place of the Ahmadiyya in the context of religious pluralism in Indonesia by answering the following questions: Why was the treatment of the Ahmadis in recent years by Muslims more vitriolic than their treatment of non-Muslims? What is the nature and quality of life for people who have been excluded from a ‘normal’ religious identity in a time when religious attachment is a necessary fact for that society? Why did the attacks on the Ahmadiyya occur in the present regime, not during the past authoritarian one? This article argues that the charge of heresy issued by Muslim institutions put the Ahmadiyya in liminal status; they are in the zone of indistinction between Muslims and non-Muslims. This makes them vulnerable to persecution since they have been deprived of their rights as Muslims, while their rights as non-Muslims are still suspended. Non-Muslims, particularly ahl al-kitāb (People of the Book), have been accepted theologically in Muslim society, but there is no place of tolerance for heretics. The rise of intolerance in Indonesia parallels the rise of religious conservatism after the fall of Suharto in 1998.


Homo sacer Liminality Heresy Persecution Religious identity Ahmadiyya 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI)JakartaIndonesia
  2. 2.TangselIndonesia

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