Islam, Ahmadiyah and the Government


Unresolved Religious Conflicts in Manis Lor Kuningan, West Java

Didin Nurul Rosidin§


Keberadaan Ahmadiyah di Indonesia tidak lepas dari kontroversi. Sejak kedatangannya pertama kali ke bumi nusantara ini, Ahmadiyah senantiasa mendapatkan penentangan dari beberapa elemen kaum Muslim. Namun demikian, seiring dengan waktu, Ahmadiyah sebagai sebuah kelompok keagamaan terus tumbuh dan berkembang hingga menyebar ke berbagai wilayah di Indonesia, termasuk Desa Manis Lor, Kuningan, dimana pengikut Ahmadiyah menjadi kelompok mayoritas dan mendominasi perpolitikan pada tingkat lokal. Konflik antara Ahmadiyah dan mayoritas Muslim pada level nasional sangat berpengaruh pada eksistensi Ahmadiyah di Manis Lor. Berbagai tekanan yang dilancarkan oleh kaum Muslim di Kuningan yang dalam banyak kasus juga didukung oleh pemerintah daerah Kuningan terus berlangsung termasuk pelarangan kebaradaan Ahmadiyah baik sebagai praktek keagamaan maupun gerakan keagamaan. Meskipun demikian, Ahmadiyah terus bertahan hingga  kini. Tulisan ini memfokuskan diri pada sejarah kemunculan Ahmadiyah di Manis Lord dan bagaimana hubungannya dengan kelompok Muslim baik pada level desa maupun Kabupaten Kuningan serta bagaimana Pemerintah Daerah dalam menyelsaikan konflik yang hingga sekarang terus berlangsung.

Keywords: Religious Conflicts, Religious Authenticity, Social Boundary, Religious Movement, Social Integration


In terms of religious conflicts in Indonesia, the case of Ahmadiyah is to be one of the best examples of the ongoing and even unresolved conflicts. Since its arrival in 1920s, Ahmadiyah around the country has become the prime target of religiously sanctified condemnation and attacks carried out by Muslims. To make the matter even more complicated, the government has been applying ambiguous approaches in dealing with these tensions. In spite of these uneasy realities, Ahmadiyah in fact successfully expands its influence, as it has been able to gradually set up tens of its branches around the country and one of them is the Manis Lor branch in Kuningan, West Java.

The case of Manis Lor branch of Kuningan is one of the most referred successful stories of this expansion. In this area, the Ahmadi, a term used to name followers of Ahmadiyah, grew very rapidly in number since the early 1950s and successfully established their foothold where more than 80% people living there was claimed to have converted to Ahmadis. Yet, in Kuningan regency where more than one million people living, Ahmadiyah still constitutes as the minority group.

Thus, it is plausible to see that this village has become the locus of the steady conflicts between the Ahmadi and Muslim groups as the majority force. A variety of attempts such as issuing religious fatwa aimed at condemning Ahmadiyah as a blatant form of religious deviance and forcefully shutting down the largest mosque belonged to Ahmadiyah have been massively and violently carried out by the local anti-Ahmadiyah movements. Furthermore, the government in Kuningan more than other local governments in the country even promulgated a joint statement banning all activities of Ahmadiyah.

This paper will explore how Ahmadiyah could strive as a minority group for decades, in spite of continuing attacks from the majority groups and why the majority groups are so profoundly gripped in their attempts to put an end to Ahmadiyah in spite of the fact that Ahmadiyah has been successfully planting its deep influence among people, as well as how the local government deals with these conflicts. As the conflicts have been taking place for decades, this paper will focus on the current state of conflicts between these two main religious groups in Manis Lor.

The Setting

Manis Lor is one of the 14 villages existing under the control of the sub-district of Jalaksana. It is located rightly at the main road connecting Cirebon and Kuningan. From Cirebon, it is about 26 km to the south and about 9 km to the north from Kuningan, the capital of the Kuningan district. Geographically, Manis Lor is belonged to the highland areas with the Ciremai Mountain, one of the highest mountains in West Java, as its background. It is also one of the core rings of the tourist destination sites in the northern part of Kuningan along with Sangkanurip with its hot natural water named Cipanas, Linggarjati with its historical and natural attraction through the historic building where the Peace Settlement Agreement between the government of Indonesia and that of the Netherlands was signed, Peusing with its natural beauty and Manis Kidul with its legendary pools named Cibulan. In holiday seasons, a large number of both local and foreign tourists come together to visit one or all of these sites.

Before 1835, there was only one Manis village, but since then, the village was divided into two separate villages. Manis Kidul (South Manis) became the formal name of the southern part of the village. Meanwhile, the northern area was called Manis Lor (North Manis). The growth of population and the vast area covered by the administration of this village were to be the factors of this partition. Although it had been formally declared independent since 1835, only did in 1838 Manis Lor started to have their own Kuwu, a name used for the head of the village. Wisaprana was proclaimed as the first Kuwu. From that time up to now, there have been 13 leaders who have ever occupied this leadership post. One of them, Kulman Tisnaprawira took this office twice in 1968-1979 and 1991-1999[1]. Plawira Sasmita was recorded to be the longest Kuwu with 28 years in the office from 1904-1932. Meanwhile, Argadipura was the shortest in the office time with only two years of service from 1947 to 1949. The current Kuwu is Yusuf Ahmadi, one of the prominent leaders of Ahmadiyah in Manis lor. [2]

Like other villages in Indonesia, the population of Manis Lor actually tends to be homogenous with most of them in many ways have shared genealogical or family linkages. For instance, in one small chat with the writer, Ilyas who is Muslim says that “in spite of the fact that many of his families, particularly those who live in the western part of the village are Ahmadiyah followers, they are still his family.[3]” Based on the current statistics (August 2009), there are 4478 inhabitants living in Manis Lor with about 730 houses[4]. People in this village like those in other villages in Kuningan have a variety of professions such as teacher, trader, but the majority of them is laborers and farmers whose lands are mostly outside the inhabitant compounds.

According to some sources, before the arrival of Ahmadiyah, all inhabitants were registered as Muslims, although with different levels of obedience. There were at least two general features of Muslims in this village before the arrival of Ahmadiyah, Jangjawokan, literarily means amulets, and Santri, literarily means those study or affiliate with pesantren. The first was mainly belonged to those affiliated with the head of the village. They believed in supernatural beings whose power could influence and control the life of human beings. The medicine man or dukun deserved an influential stature before the people. In Java, they might represent the Abangan religious culture. This group was the majority of the population in Manis Lor due to which the development of Islam as a set of religious teachings and practices was slow as not so many people paid attention to Islamic practices.

Meanwhile, the second was seen to be loyalists of the Ketib or Khotib, a religious official of the village. We may say that they represented the Santri culture. The main mosque of the village named Al-Huda and located at the village governmental compound along with the Kuwu office has been in the hands of the Ketib officials. Unlike the Kuwu, there is no a clear record of the Ketib officials. People just explain that this post has been simply belonged to one family from one to another generation. That is why people when they have questions about religion will refer to what they call the members of the Ketib family. As Islam was identified with this family, Islam represented a minority force. It was not unusual to see only a small number of people came to the mosque to pray. Efforts had been made to improve the situation by inviting different Muslim preachers such as Kiyai Haji Abdul Manan from Sangkanurip to give regularly religious sermons but no significant outcomes could be seen as people continued with their own businesses and the mosque was still left without any significant new comers.

In spite of that fact, the Ketib continued to maintain his social as well as cultural networks with other santri world centers in Kuningan. Many of the members of this family were sent to study in the pesantren. For instance, Salimin, who is now the chairman of Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Muslim Scholars Assembly or MUI) of Manis Lor and the headmaster of Madrasah Tsanawiyah (Islamic Junior High school or MTs) 24 of Manis Lor, was sent to study religious subjects at the Pesantren in Sangkanurip[5]. Sending children to pesantren is also a part of maintaining the stature of the family as a source of religious authority.

In terms of religious culture, Kuningan is among the main centers of the santri world in West Java along with Tasikmalaya, Ciamis and Cirebon. There are 312 pesantren with 30.424 pupils, from whom 20.569 permanently stay and sleep in the boarding houses provided by pesantren and 9.855 are only registered as santri kalong, those who study religious studies in pesantren in their part time[6]. One of the largest pesantren in Kuningan is Pesantren Husnul Khotimah located in Manis Kidul with more than 3000 students. In addition to pesantren, there are also a number of major mass-based Muslim organizations such as Muhammadiyah that was set up in Kuningan as early as 1930, Nahdhotul Ulama or NU in 1950, Persatuan Ummat Islam or PUI in 1952 and Mathla’ul Anwar in 1992. From those organizations, only does NU have its local office in Manis Lor and Haji Nasrudin is its general chairman. Nasruddin, a son of Ketib Marjan, along with his younger brother, Haji Salimin, have become the leaders of the anti-Ahmadiyah movement there.

In spite of being well known as the santri culture centre, the nationalist parties in fact have been dominant in the political competition in Kuningan since the early time. In the 1955 general election, PNI won with 81.524 votes overpowering Masyumi with only 55.911 and PKI with 15.401 votes. During the New Order, Golkar under the strong support of bureaucracy and military forces dominated the political stages compared to PDI before being transformed in PDIP as the potential contender. PPP believed to represent the Islamic political voice failed to significantly attract the votes. In the last general election in 2009, the nationalist parties won the majority of the votes in which PDIP won with its 14 seats, Democrat Party (7), Golkar (7) and Gerindra (4)  Meanwhile, all Islamic parties consisting of PKS, PAN, PPP, PKB and PBB could only get 18 seats out of 50 possible seats at the local people representative. Moreover, in the last two Bupati elections, Aang Hamid Suganda, supported by PDIP and Golkar, won the election with, particularly in the last election, more than 70% of the votes. Likewise, the nationalist parties such PNI in the Old Order, Golkar in the New Order and PDIP after the Reformation era have been the dominant political parties in Manis Lor and Islamic parties failed to attract significant votes.

The arrival of Ahmadiyah

Before coming to elaborate the history of Ahmadiyah in Manis Lor, it is important to briefly see the development of Ahmadiyah in Indonesia in general. Furthermore, as Ahmadiyah that arrived in Indonesia was not a single entity, it is of course necessary to also highlight both of the two existing branches of Ahmadiyah, Lahore-affiliated and Qodiyan-affiliated groups from which we can see to which of these two Ahmadiyah streams the Ahmadiyah of Manis Lor is religiously and structurally affiliated.

The Ahmadiyah of the Lahore-affiliated group came for the first time to the shore of Indonesian archipelago in 1924. Mirza Wali Ahmad Baig and Maulana Ahmad were claimed to be the first preachers who introduced Ahmadiyah in Indonesia. Their arrival was a part of the missionary programs designed by the central government body of Lahore-based Ahmadiyah to send their preachers to many parts of the world, including Europe, America and other parts of Asia, including Indonesia[7]. Mirza Wali Ahmad Baig and Maulana Ahmad firstly came to Yogyakarta where some of local Muhammadiyah leaders such as Djojosugito, Muhammad Husni and Wahban Hilal, welcomed them and even later became the first generation of followers of Ahmadiyah in Indonesia[8].

More than that, Muhammadiyah’s leaders also frequently invited both of the Ahmadiyah preachers to present their ideas about Islam and their main mission in Indonesia. For instance, in the 1924 as well as 1925 Muhammadiyah National Congresses, both Ahmadiyah preachers, particularly Mirza Wali Ahmad Baig, gave speeches before the floor. Not only did Muhammadiyah’s leaders show their high attention to Ahmadiyah, but some important leaders of Sarikat Islam (SI), including Agus Salim and Cokroaminoto, did show their eagerness to discuss and learn religious subjects with both of the early Ahmadiyah propagandists. Cokroaminoto studied and even translated the Holy Qur’an composed by Maulana Muhammad Ali, the president of Ahmadiyah of Lahore, although his Qur’anic translation accused of being very much influenced by the Holy Qur’an of Maulana Muhammad Ali was rejected by Muhammadiyah and NU.

Nonetheless, the arrival of early Ahmadiyah preachers also created controversies among Muslims, particularly within Muhammadiyah from which a number of sympathizers initially came from. Many Muhammadiyah leaders started realizing that there were a number of conflicting notions between Muhammadiyah and Ahmadiyah. Thus, they criticized and even attacked the false tenets of Ahmadiyah[9]. For instance, in 1926 or only two years after its arrival, Haji Rasul (or Haji Abdul Karim Amrullah) who had been so critical against the Qodiyan-affiliated Ahmadiyah in West Sumatra harshly attacked some principles of the Ahmadiyah teachings and demanded Muhammadiyah to take firm actions against Ahmadiyah, which was believed to have negative impacts over Muhammadiyah.

In 1927, the Central Board of Muhammadiyah sent all branches an instruction prohibiting all Muhammadiyah preachers to teach and disseminate the ideas and doctrines of Ahmadiyah. One year later, in its Nasional Conference, Muhammadiyah took a further action in outlawing Ahmadiyah. It issued a statement condemning Ahmadiyah’s teachings and considering those who followed them as infidels and demanded all of its members who already followed Ahmadiyah to choose one of the two options; remaining in Muhammadiyah and thus leaving Ahmadiyah out or supporting the latter but at the same time being ousted from the membership of the former.

As the immediate result of this decision, Muhammadiyah expelled its members, who decided to maintain their loyalty to Ahmadiyah. One of them was Muhammad Husni who was the General Secretary of the Central Board of Muhammadiyah. He was forced to resign not only from his highly profiled post but also retreated from Muhammadiyah altogether. Another key figure of this example was R. Ng. H. Minhajurrahman Djojosugito who since the beginning supported Ahmadiyah. Like Muhammad Husni, he was finally fired out from his strategic position as the general chairman of Muhammadiyah branch of Purwokerto. In responding to this decision, Djojosugito supported by other Ahmadiyah loyalists such as Muhammad Husni, Muhammad Kusban, Sutantyo and Supratolo, started to lead the remaining followers of Ahmadiyah and took some initial steps. One of them was to set up their own independent organization under the banner of Gerakan Ahmadiyah Indonesia in 1929. From that time, Ahmadiyah with the Lahore connection established their foothold in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, unlike the Lahore faction that arrived at Indonesia through sending their special missionaries, the Qadiyan-affiliated branch started its influence through Indonesian natives. 1n 1922, three West Sumatra-based students; Abubakar Ayyub, Ahmad Nuruddin, and  Zaini Dahlan who initially planned to study at Cairo altered their study destination to India after being advised by their teachers who considered the need of having an alternative source of study . They were all alumni of Sumatra Thawalib in Padang. Not only did they study Islam at the Madrasah of Ahmadiyah for a few years, they also converted into Ahmadiyah. In their return to Padang, they campaigned for Ahmadiyah and only few years later, they successfully converted about 23 new Ahmadis, all of them were students or alumni of the Sumatra Thawalib.

The fast growth of Indonesian followers had assured the supreme leader of Ahmadiyah, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II, about the importance of Indonesian position in the framework of expanding Ahmadiyah beyond India. In 1925, he sent his envoy, Maulana Rahmat Ali, to Indonesia. However, the envoy did not directly go to Padang where the followers had already waited him but stayed in Tapaktuan, Aceh for some time to also support the propagation of Ahmadiyah carried out some Ahmadi there. Since opposition to his teachings was widespread among Acehnese, he then went to Padang where he later made some successful efforts following the massive conversion of local Muslims to Ahmadiyah. As the number of followers expanded, Rahhmat Ali set up the Ahmadiyah branch in Padang in 1929.

In 1931, he then decided to go to Jakarta where he also successfully recruited new pupils through whom Ahmadiyah expanded to other areas around Jakarta and West Java, such as Bogor and Garut. To lead all of those already set up branches, Rahmat Ali sponsored the foundation of the coordinating body. To do so, he then organized the first National Conference of Ahmadiyah in 1935 in which the first organizing body named as Ahmadiyah Qodiyan Departemen Indonesia (AQDI) was set up and R. Muhyiddin was appointed as the first general chairman. The name of this organization had been changed at least twice. The first was in 1937 under the name of the Anjuman Ahmadiyah Departemen Indonesia (AADI) and the second as well as the last name was Jemaat Ahmadiyah Indonesia or JAI that was launched in 1949. But only in 1953, the JAI was legally accepted by the government of Republic of Indonesia. In terms of the number of members of both groups, the JAI that claimed to have seven hundred thousand members is far bigger than the GAI with only three thousand members. Moreover, from these two streams was only the JAI that finally reached the land of Manis Lor in 1954.

Ahmadiyah firstly came to Manis Lor in 1954 when Haji Basyari was sent to Cirebon in a response to the request coming from Juandi, the then chairman of Ahmadiyah of Cirebon branch. Basyari who was from Garut, one of the first and main centers of Ahmadiyah in West Java in addition to Bogor since the last 30s, firstly came to Cirebon to preach Ahmadiyah there. Unsatisfactorily with the outcome since only a few Ahmadi converts, Basyari decided to expand his preaching to Kuningan where he firstly visited Cilimus, well known as one of the main basis of santri communities in Kuningan. Thus, it was understandable that he in fact found him under the fierce attacks of Muslim leaders there. Under this desperate circumstance, he met Sutardjo who was also from Garut as well as Ahmadi. Sutardjo who was at that time a Police officer of the Jalaksana Sub-district office invited Basyari to Manis Lor, the place that Sutardjo considered as the perfect place to introduce Ahmadiyah teachings.

Under the strong support of Sutardjo, Basyari started to introduce Ahmadiyah in Manis Lor where conflicts were at the climax between Bening, the incumbent Kuwu of Manis Lor, and Kiyai Marjan, the Ketib of the same village and a graduate of pesantren in Sangkanurip. Bening who was seeking other sources of supports in facing the Ketib’s challenges welcomed Basyari and voluntarily converted to Ahmadiyah. Thus, supported by both influential figures, Basyari preached Ahmadiyah in Manis Lor. Both leaders often highlighted the danger of ongoing conflicts between the Kuwu and the Ketib and, thus, the need for an immediate solution was at stake. To do so, they boldly underlined the need for the villagers to make a clear decision whether they would follow the instructions of the Kuwu or the Ketib. As the majority tended to support the Kuwu, it was not surprising that more than 80% of the population soon adopted Ahmadiyah.

As the growth of Ahmadi followers was very fast, in the early months of 1956, the status of Manis Lor was then upgraded from only a sub-branch of the Cirebon branch into a full pledged branch similar to that in Cirebon. Bening who occupied the Kuwu office for 19 years from 1949 to 1968 was appointed as the chairman along with Ahmad Soekrono as the vice chairman and a number of secretaries including Tisnaprawira, the father of the current influential leader, Kulman Tisnaprawira, Suama, Mardi Al-Qomar, Sutadasin and Mihardja Nendra[10]. From the creation of the board up to present, there have been 14 leadership changes from which the last chairman is Abdul Syukur, a government employee.

Besides continually strengthening their influence in Manis Lor, Ahmadiyah activists of Manis Lor also propagated their new belief to other areas in Kuningan as well as Majalengka. They successfully recruited new followers from such areas as Cipicung, Ciawigebang, Sinduherang, Ciporang and Manis Kidul where sub-branches of Ahmadiyah board were then set up. It was also reported that one of the Ahmadiyah preacher named Sujinah was able to attract more than 80 new Ahmadi converts in the village of Sadasari, Majalengka.

The successful stories of Ahmadiyah in Manis Lor had put it on the highlight at the national level. Just in 1967, Manis Lor was chosen as the host for the Annual National Religious Meeting or Jalasah Sanah. From 1979 up 1982, this branch again became the venue of this event for three years consecutively. This showed how important the position of this branch at the national level was. It is then plausible to see that in 2004, the supreme caliphate of Ahmadiyah made a historic visit to Manis Lor, in spite of strong resistance coming from Muslim sides in the village.

The Search for “an Authentic Islam”

As being mentioned above, the fast growth of Ahmadiyah in Manis Lor both in the form of organization and the number of followers could be considered as the successful story of the tabligh (propagation) of Ahmadiyah. Many conclusions have been exposed to analyze this development. Some believed that the hierarchical system of power in the village was to be the most important factors that drove the villagers simply adopt what the elites said, did and acted.

Other say, that in addition to that of the unequal system of power sharing, the methods used to convince people were considered to be effective since it fully involved local people who could explore the teachings of Ahmadiyah in their own daily language. For example, Ahmadiyah’s early leaders took every possible way to invite people to support Ahmadiyah movement. They applied the door-to-door method when they came to the houses of villagers. As the villagers tended to be loyal to their leaders, Ahmadiyah’s early leaders, who were also the leaders of the village, exploited their influence in attracting people’s attention.

The vast growth of the Ahmadi converts within a short time in Manis Lor still gave more questions rather than answers. One of the questions might be how important Ahmadiyah as a set of religious teachings was for new Ahmadiyah followers since most of them were previously known as believers of Jangjawokan instead of an established religion like Islam. To answer this question, we may refer to the statement ever made by Jakan, Bening’s father-in-law and originally from Padang, West Sumatra, before performing in one Friday prayer in 1954. In the midst of preparing for a Friday prayer, Jakan stood up before the audience and declared that “it (Ahmadiyah) is a religion that I was looking for since I was still in Padang up to now (Inilah agama yang saya tunggu-tunggu dari Padang sampai sekarang).”

The impacts of the arrival of Ahmadiyah were soon apparent. People started practicing religious rituals, which were previously unfamiliar to them. The number of attendants in the mosque doubled. However, following the provocative statement made by Jakan before the audience in the Friday Prayer occasion, Muslims were then split into those who supported Ahmadiyah and those who did not, because of that leaders of Ahmadiyah to accommodate the rising enthusiasm of new Ahmadiyah converts built a new mosque on the land endowed by Kuwu Bening. At the same time, women Ahmadis also started learning and practicing religious obligations. One of the most conspicuous features of these changes was when they bought headcovers in the market and wore them in public. Religious topics became the dominant discourses among people. Whatever the image people prefer might be, observing these newly religious developments, one may say that Ahmadiyah had successfully “Islamize” the population of Manis Lor.

These newly religious phenomena not only surprised Muslim communities in Manis Lor but also in other areas around the village. Muslims on the one hand were happy with this new development. On the other hand, they hardly accepted the fact that it was Ahmadiyah that people followed. One of the most referred differences was the status of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wethere he was a prophet or not. Ahmadiyah in this case Qodiyan affiliated sect explained that Muhammad was the last prophet who brought and taught doctrines, while Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the promised prophet (Al-Mahdi) but without bringing new doctrines. Thus Qur’an and Hadits of the Prophet Muhammad were and are still the prime sources of religious teachings and, thus, all Ahmadis should totally fulfill all obligations taught by Muhammad including prayers, fasting and even going to pilgrimage.

In spite of some similarities in principle, Ahmadiyah that Muslims believed to have deviated from the principles of Islam by lifting Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet was then under attacks of Muslim scholars in Manis Lor. The provocative speech made by Jakan before the Friday prayer as being mentioned above could be seen as the beginning of open and direct competition, or you may say conflicts, between the Ahmadis and Muslims. Following the event, people frequently came across with the attacks. Both of them also attacked against each other by accusing the others as practicing infidelity. Debates on some of religious doctrines dominated the religious discourses in Manis Lor from the very early time of Ahmadiyah arrival.

A decade later, the methods of propagation changed and a new group of propagandists rose to the surface. Ahmadiyah set up new organizations for the youth, Khadamul Ahmadiyah (the Guide of Ahmadiyah) for boys and Nashirotul Ahmadiyah (the Helper of Ahmadiyah) for girls. Since their creation, they had been active in strengthening the solidity of Ahmadiyah as a group as well as in campaigning the Ahmadiyah teachings to public. For example, in 1967, the Khodamul Ahmadiyah circulated brochures and pamphlets among the villagers regardless their different doctrines and religious affiliations. In these brochures, they stated that “the Imam Mahdi had come and thus who ever did not believe in it would die like those in the Jahiliyah age, a term used to describe the pre-Islamic age in Arabia”. The distribution of brochures and pamphlets was to be the follow-up action following the organizing of the Jalsah Sanah, the Annual Religious National Conference, hosted by the Ahmadiyah branch of Manis Lor in 1967.

Against this action, Muslims coming from many parts of Kuningan gave strong reactions. In Jalaksana, Kamiluddin set up the Ikatan Pelajar Nahdlatul Ulama (Nahdlatul Ulama Pupil Association or IPNU) at the Islamic Junior High School (Madrasah Tsanawiyah or MTs) in Jalaksana. Likewise, in Cilimus, Ustadz Udin took the same action when he initiated to set up the Islamic Students Union (Persatuan Pelajar Indonesia or PPI) but not IPNU like that done by Kamiludin at the Pendidikan Guru Agama (Islamic Teachers’ Training or PGA). The creation of both student organizations was aimed at preparing young cadres that would be ready to reject every claim made by Ahmadiyah. Through these two organizations, Muslims also circulated brochures and pamphlets downgrading the claims made by Ahmadiyah. The rise of reactions coming not only from Muslims in Manis Lor but also from other parts of Muslims showed the widening escalation of conflicts. It was to be the first time that Muslims outside Manis Lor took part in the conflicts.

Like in 1967, from 1979 up to 1982 when the Ahmadiyah branch of Manis Lor became the host of the Jalsah Sanah, the war of words between Ahmadis and Muslims through brochures, pamphlets as well as public sermons dominated the religious discourses in Kuningan. Particularly, in 1979, in addition to organizing the Jalsah Sanah, Ahmadiyah also held a book fair located just outside the Grand Mosque in Kuningan. At the same time, they also distributed books on Ahmadiyah principles and teachings freely to every visitor. More than that in 1967, the last conflicts involved wider Muslim communities in Kuningan and even the Majelis Ulama Indonesian Pusat (MUI Pusat) at the national level. In Kuningan, a number of Muslim youth organizations came to the venue of the book fair and seized books and finally forced the committee to immediately close down the fair. One year later, the MUI issued a fatwa on the falsity of Ahmadiyah. The decree had also advised ulama in all parts of Indonesia to inform people that the teachings of Ahmadiyya fell outside the bounds of Islam and to redirect the members of Jamaah Ahmadiyah Indonesia (JAI) to go back to the “correct form of Islam.”

Another effort aimed at hampering the development of Ahmadiyah was the establishment of a new pesantren in the neighbor village, Manis Kidul, in 1994. Five Muslim leaders led by Haji Sahal and Haji Ibrahim and supported by the Kuwu of Manis Kidul, Haji Junaedi, founded the Pesantren named Husnul Khotimah. K.H. Achidin Noer, a Master graduate of the University of Madinah, became the supreme leader of the pesantren. He was also successful in attracting donors from Middle East. In the years to come, he became the vocal figure in launching attacks on the falsity of Ahmadiyah teachings.

Attacks over the falsity of Ahmadiyah intensified in the years to come. These attacks also came from a variety of corners of Muslim communities. Muslims did not only focus on the falsity of Ahmadiyah doctrines but also tried to find out to wipe the Ahmadiyah out from Kuningan. The last goal was started in 2002 when Department of Religious Office in Kuningan with Muslim mass based organizations made a Joint Decision stating that Ahmadiyah had deviated from Islam and, therefore, should be get rid out from Kuningan altogether. Muslims’ early seemed to be fruitful as the Pengawas Aliran Kepercayaan Masyarakat (Pakem), a body specially assigned to supervise people’s religiosity outside formally recognized religions, issued a letter instructing all government offices not to give Identity Card (Kartu Tanda Penduduk or KTP) for Ahmadiyah followers and legalized their marriage.

One year later, the MUI of Kuningan reiterated the falsity of Ahmadiyah in its circulated letter sent to all of branches at the sub-district levels. Again, the Joint Decision on the falsity and prohibition of Ahmadiyah in Kuningan was again issued in 2004. In this second decision, the formal support through giving signatures also came from the local government and people’s representative. Furthermore, the Bupati, who came from PDIP, also put his signature on the letter and because of which he was reported to be the only head of the local government in Indonesia that signed such a decision. Both joint decisions gained more supports at the national level as in 2005 the MUI made statements pointing out Ahmadiyya’s deviancy and that its followers were to be treated as apostates. Moreover, the MUI also declared that the Indonesian government was obliged to ban the Ahmadiyya movement and to close down its premises.

Demands to ban Ahmadiyah since then were more frequently heard and voiced by a variety of Muslim groups. These escalated demands forced the government to take some actions. The first action was inviting the JAI to meet with some government agencies including Bakorpakem, an ad hoc coordinating body consisting of the representatives of Attorney General’s Office, national intelligence body BIN, police, military, and the departments of religion and education, to discuss the acceptability of the movement’s beliefs and practices. The meeting was ended by some recommendations aiming at how to make Ahmadiyya “correctly Islamic” again. For three months Bakorpakem teams observed Ahmadi mosques and JAI premises, but in April 2008 the body concluded that JAI had not followed its twelve recommendations.

A joint statement by the Ministry of Religion, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Attorney General’s Office was considered necessary. According to the law on religious deviation and offence (No. 1/PNPS/1965), such a statement can recommend the President to ban a religious organization or sect. Yet, up to now, no significant actions have been made by President to ban Ahmadiyah that continue to thrive around the country.

Mosques: A New Religious as well as Social Boundary

As the number of followers of Ahmadiyah grew very rapidly and the relation with Muslim went worst as an immediate impact of the open challenges exposed by Ahmadiyah’s early leaders and directed against Muslims’ leaders and the Muslims’ basic tenets, the need for a special place for practicing Ahmadiyah teachings was at stake. To facilitate this great number of followers, Bening then took an initiative by endowing his land in which the first mosque of Ahmadyah was built. It is located only about 200 meters to the east from the village mosque site. The construction of this mosque clearly marked a religious division between Muslims and Ahmadis.

For the first two years of the arrival of Ahmadiyah, all Ahmadis used this newly constructed mosque to perform their rituals and other non-religious activities. However, in 1956, they decided to move their activities to a newly built mosque which is far bigger than the first one. This decison made by Bening and was claimed to have referred to a Bening’s dream in which he was asked to move the mosque to another place where the land was covered by the bamboo trees. Shortly, Bening successfully found the proposed land and then built the new Ahmadiyah mosque. Unlike the old mosque that was at the eastern side of the grand mosque, the new mosque instead was located at the western side. From the grand Mosque, it is about a half kilometers to the west. The name of this mosque is An- Nur, an Arabic word that means light.

In Manis Lor, the construction of the An-Nur mosque means there two important mosques by which two big religious groups competed as well as conflicted. The mosque in other words became the source of social identification that finally also plays as a social boundary from the other. That is true as the followers of both mosques have their own label. Those who converted to Ahmadiyah were labeled as the Orang Kulon (Westerners) wherever their real houses located might be. This label was because the place of the An-Nur mosque is at the western side of the village. For instance, Bening whose house was in the eastern side from the village mosque was considered to be a westerner. Likewise, those who maintained themselves a being Muslim will be seen as the Easterners in spite of the fact that their houses might be in the western part of Manis Lor. In addition to the mosque, there were actually other forms of prayer hall, Musholla that literally means the place for prayer. Both religious groups have a number of prayer halls that are mainly used for daily prayers as well as for religious studies gathering (Majelis Ta’lim) that are usually dominated by old women. However, as the An-Nur and Al-Huda have become the hallmarks of both conflicting groups, the social identification mostly refers to these two mosques.

Both Muslims and Ahmadis viewed their own mosque as a symbol of their religious and social identity, while seeing those affiliating with others as the other. Thus, in the time of clashes, the mosques as well as musholla frequently became the prime target of every attack. Open conflicts that in many times also involved physical tortures since then frequently occurred. For instance, in 1983 when Ahmadi activists distributed brochures and books, Muslims in their reaction burnt the An-Nur mosque, although with only minor damages, and arrested a number of book distributors. In 1987, as a part of protest against the discriminative policies made by the Ahmadi head of the village in dealing with the Al-Huda mosque, Muslims staged protests demanding the resignation of the Kuwu. Their protests came to fruit when the government took a decision to force the current head to leave the post and installed Udin Maduri, a devout Muslim with the military background, as the acting head of the village. Under his leadership from 1987 up to 1991, Ahmadiyah was controlled and their activities were in general tightly restricted.

Another example was in 2000 and 2004. In the first example, it was reported that one rich Ahmadi family at the border between Manis Kidul and Manis Lor built a small building without giving any clear information about the function of this building to the people living around the site. When the construction was completed, people were shocked to know that this building was finally designed as the mosque for Ahmadi followers who were a minority in that place. As a reaction, people supported by Muslim leaders of Manis Kidul burnt down the newly built mosque. The second example was in 2004 following the issuance of the Joint Decree (Surat Keputusan Bersama or SKB) made by the local government of Kuningan in 2002. Both Musholla Al-Taqwa and Al-Hidayah were burnt down. Moreover, the An-Nur mosque was not without any attacks. All in and exit doors were blocked by woods nailed to the doors due to which the Ahmadis could not use the mosque to perform their religious obligations. As the time went out, the Ahmadis after being underground for some time again opened the mosque.

The seizure of the An-Nur mosque again occurred in 2008 with even larger effects. Violence and inflammatory public speeches by radical Muslim leaders were again used to step up pressure in early 2008 to force the government to ban the Ahmadiyah. A number of Muslim groups gathered around the mosque and again blocked all of its doors. Some attackers were even involved in directly bloody physical clashes with Ahmadiyah followers. Many of both sides were reported to have been injured. It took months before being re-opened in the early months of 2009. The visit to the mosque in the last Ramadhan month made by Hajjah Sinta Nuriyah, a wife of KH Abdurrahman Wahid, gave more boosts to the Ahmadis. Thus after this visit, the Ahmadis openly started using the mosque for their religious activities

Seeking a Political Balance or a new society

Since the first Kuwu, the leadership has been in the hand of non-Santri background leaders except in 1987 up to 1991 when the Regent (Bupati) was involved in selecting the leader. Bupati appointed Udin who was a devout Muslim with the police military of background as the temporary acting Kuwu replacing the old official who was under harsh critics from the Muslim villagers. Yet, in the 1991 Kuwu general election, again the Ahmadiyah candidate, Kulman Tisnaprawira, won the election to occupy the post for second time.

Realizing the minority status of Muslims, some Muslim leaders strove to focus on capturing some important positions at the local politics. Since the last 1990s, Muslims led by Haji Salimin attempted to take strategic positions such as the village people representative or BPD in which all strategic matters elaborated. In 1999, for example, he started his efforts by staging a huge demonstration in the front of the Kuwu office. This action was supported by Muslim leaders of Manis Lor and held amidst the official meeting organized by a newly elected Kuwu, Prana Imawan Putra (1999-2007), and attended by Camat, the head of the sub-district office, of Jalaksana, police and military offices of Jalaksana. The demonstrators underlined the importance of promoting the integration of all Manis Lor inhabitants both practicing religious and secular activities. According to Haji Salimin, the main goal of this demand is the fair sharing of power between Ahmadiyah followers and Muslims. In other words, Muslims should be given the same position in the processes of decision making at the village level.

Muslims’ efforts came with unexpected fruits. In the 2007 Kuwu general election, Muslims were able to send their six representatives at the BPD office. Since the members of BPD are 11 people, Muslims took the majority status for the first time. With this stature in mind, Haji Salimin then easily went to be the chairman of the BPD without any significant opposition. Under his chairmanship, he was able to put Muslims’ voices heard and their interests fulfilled, although not without fierce opposition coming from the Ahmadiyah camp.

The failures of Muslims to minimize the influence of Ahmadiyah in spite of strong supports of Muslims from outside brought some Muslim leaders to realize that it is only those of Manis Lor that are capable in solving the conflicts. The involvement of Muslims from outside without having fine knowledge about the real problems faced by Muslims in Manis Lor often made the matter even worst. That is why some Muslim leaders started taking steps in campaigning the idea of integration (pembauran).


From the elaboration deliberated above, the case of Ahmadiyah in Manis Lor, Kuningan is to be one of the intriguing tests for all factions involved including the followers of Ahmadiyah themselves, Muslims struggling to keep the purity of their religion, as well as the government that is very much interested in maintaining the stability and order to create a harmonious and tolerant society. The failure of repressive approaches mostly opted in the fast decades should be learned as to create a new road map in solving this religion based conflicts. The rise of the integration (pembauran) motion could be made as the promising starting point for the better future of the tolerance inspired relationship between both the followers of Islam and those of Ahmadiyah.


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Dapartemen Agama Kab. Kuningan, Data Pondok Pesantren Kabupaten Kuningan, 2007.

Effendi, Djohan, “Ahmadiyah Qodiyan di Desa Manis Lor,” dalam Ulumul Qur’an no. 4 vol. 1, 1990.

Fathoni, Muslih, Faham Mahdi Syi’ah dan Ahmadiyah dalam Perspektif, Jakarta: Raja Grafindo Press, 1994.

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Laporan Bulanan Kecamatan Jalaksana Bulan September tahun 2009.

Masduki, Zainal, Gerakan Ahmadiyah Qodiyan di Manis Lor Kuningan 1953-1985, unpublished thesis, 2007.

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——————,” Being a Communist: A Study of the Persis’ Fatwa on PKI, unpublished paper, 2000.

——————,“Konflik Ideologi antara Elit Agama dan Elit Politik,” Jurnal Ilmu-ilmu Ushuluddin Teologia, vol. 12, no. 1, February 2001.

Tisnaprawira, Kulman, Sejarah Masuk dan Berkembangnya Jemaat Ahmadiyah Indonesia di Manis Lor, Kuningan: Jemaat Ahmadiyah Indonesia Cabang Manis Lor, 2007

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  • § Lecturer at The State Institute for Islamic Studies (Institut Agama Islam Negeri or IAIN) Syekh Nurjati Cirebon and can be reached through

[1] Interview with Ilyas, 28 September 2009.

[2] Chronologically, the kuwu of Manis Lor are Wisaprana (1838-1853), Kertamenggala ((1853-1868), Anggaprana (1868-1878), Raksa Permana (1878-1893), Rana Sasmita (1893-1904), Plawira Sasmita (1904-1932), Wangsareja (1932-1947), Argadipura (1947-1949),  E. Bening (1949-1968), Kulman Tisnaprawira (1968-1979), Rusja Sutadasim (1979-1987), Acting kuwu, Udin Maduri (1987-1991), Kulman Tisnaprawira (1991-1999), Prana Imawan Putra (1999-2007) and Yusuf Ahmadi (2007 up to present).

[3] Interview with Ilyas, 28 September 2009.

[4] Laporan Bulanan Kecamatan Jalaksana Bulan September tahun 2009.

[5] Interview with Haji Salimin, 28 September 2009.

[6] Dapartemen Agama Kab. Kuningan, Data Pondok Pesantren Kabupaten Kuningan, 2007.

[7] Iskandar Zulkarnaen, Gerakan Ahmadiyah di Indonesia, Yogyakarta; LKiS, 2005, p. 182-183.

[8] In addition, according to the report made by R. Kern in July 1924, there were four Javanese students who went to study at the Ahmadiyah school in Lahore including Djoenab, a son of Haji Moechtar, Mohammad Sabitoen, a son of Haji Wahhab, Djoemhan, a son of Kiyai Haji Ahmad Dahlan, the founder of Muhammadiyah, Maksoem, a son of Haji Hamid. Iskandar Zulkarnaen, Gerakan …p. 187.

[9] The new awareness of the falsities of Ahmadiyah doctrines rose following the arrival of an Indian Muslim scholar, Abdul Halim Siddiqi, to Yogyakarta where he criticized and attacked Ahmadiyah by showing its deviances from the true Islam. Iskandar Zulkarnaen, Gerakan …p. 189-190.

[10] Zainal Masduki, Gerakan Ahmadiyah Qodiyan di Manis Lor Kuningan 1953-1985, p. 115.


About didinnurulrosidin

I am lecturer of Islamic history at the state institute for Islamic studies (IAIN) Syekh Nurjati Cirebon. I am also the director of the Kuliyatul Mu'allimin Al-Mutawally Kuningan, West Java
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