Indonesia Bans Hardline Group Islamic Defenders Front

Riza Chadijah
Jakarta
2020-12-30
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Indonesia Bans Hardline Group Islamic Defenders Front Indonesian Islamic cleric Rizieq Shihab, the leader of Islamic Defenders Front, speaks to his followers upon arriving from Saudi Arabia in Jakarta, Nov. 10, 2020.
[AP]

Indonesia has banned the Islamic Defenders Front, a hardline group led by firebrand cleric Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, for violating the law and disrupting peace and security, the chief security minister announced Wednesday.

Officials from the central and regional administrations have been ordered not to give permits for any future events by the group known as FPI and to remove any posters or materials related to it, said Mohammad Mahfud MD, coordinating minister for political, legal, and security affairs.

“In accordance with the law and the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the government has banned FPI activities and will stop any activities carried out by FPI,” he said at a press conference in Jakarta.

FPI had been considered disbanded since June 2019 because it had failed to extend its organizational registration permit at the Home Affairs Ministry, the minister said.

“[FPI] does not have legal standing. However, institutionally, FPI still carried out provocative acts that violated the law acts and disrupted public security, such as illegal raids on establishments and other such things,” Mahfud MD said.

The decision to ban Rizieq was taken jointly by Indonesia’s home, law and communications ministers, the police and counterterrorism heads, and the attorney general, he said.

Rizieq, who was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of flouting coronavirus restrictions, has been a vocal critic of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration. The cleric, who returned to Indonesia last month after three years of self-exile in Saudi Arabia, has given the opposition a chance to rally again, analysts had said.

He founded FPI in 1998, and since then, Rizieq and the group’s members have had several brushes with the law.

FPI was also banned because 35 of its members and former members had been convicted on terrorism charges, said Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, deputy justice and human rights minister.

“[The ban] is to keep the existence of our nation’s state ideology, Pancasila,” Edward said during the press conference.

FPI is a “conveyor belt that leads them from radicalism to terrorism,” said Muhammad Taufiqurrohman, a researcher at the Center for Radicalism and Deradicalization Studies, or PAKAR.

In 2017, the government banned another radical Islamic group, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), for promoting a state based on Sharia law instead of the nation’s “Pancasila” ideology.

201230_ID_FPI_protest (1).jpg

A supporter of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) wears a mock-suicide bomb during an anti-Israel demonstration outside the U.S. consulate in North Sumatra, Indonesia, Nov. 23, 2012. [AP]

FPI reacts

FPI’s senior leaders announced on Wednesday that they had changed the group’s name to Front Persatuan Islam, or Islamic United Front, because of the ban.

“To all members and sympathizers of the Islamic Defenders Front throughout Indonesia and abroad, to avoid unnecessary matters and clashes with the despotic regime, we hereby declare the Islamic United Front to continue the fight to defend the religion, nation, and state in accordance with Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution,” FPI leaders said in a statement.

Aziz Yanuar, FPI’s deputy general secretary, accused the government of banning FPI because Rizieq was a critic of Jokowi’s government.

“This is a kind of attack that has been prepared for us and other groups who are critical of the government,” Aziz told BenarNews.

He also alleged that the ban and the killing of six FPI supporters in a clash with police earlier this month were linked.

“Obviously there are efforts to cover up human rights violations by dismissing FPI, but we will not remain silent,” Aziz said.

On Dec. 7, police said they shot dead six FPI members who were traveling in a convoy with Rizieq, in self-defense.

FPI said the six were victims of extrajudicial killings and called for an independent investigation. The incident is being investigated by Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM).

Pornography case reopened

After the government announced the ban, dozens of fully armed security officers took down a large billboard with a picture of Rizieq, from the building of the FPI headquarters in Petamburan, Central Jakarta.

“As stated by the government, this is part of the law enforcement efforts carried out by the TNI-Polri,” Central Jakarta Police Chief Heru Novianto told journalists, referring to the joint military-police effort.

He also urged the community to cooperate and avoid any FPI activities.

Separately, on Tuesday, the South Jakarta District Court reopened a controversial pornography case involving Rizieq. It was one of the two cases that precipitated his departure to Saudi Arabia three years ago.

In 2018 the pornography-related were dropped, but the court on Tuesday lifted the investigation termination warrant for the case. The plaintiff, a group called the Anti-Pornography Students Alliance, had challenged the termination.

Rizieq’s detention for violating coronavirus restrictions, which ends Dec. 31, will be extended by 20 days, said Andi Rian, national police director for general crimes.

“It will be extended because the examination has not been completed,” Andi said.

Rizieq faces up to six years in prison if convicted of having health and safety protocols during the coronavirus pandemic.

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