Indonesia rejects Islamic defenders against ‘terrorism’ allegations

BANGKOK – The hard-line Islamic Defenders Front was outlawed by the Indonesian government on Wednesday and ordered to stop all activity in less than two months by its fiery leader, Rijik Shihab, returning from self-imposed exile and “moral Pledged to lead the “revolution”. “

In a statement signed by top officials and the chief of the national police, the government said that members of the group were involved in terrorist and criminal acts and that the activities organized by the group distracted public order.

Mr. Rijik, 55, a cleric who claims to be a descendant of Prophet Muhammad, is accused of violating the Coronovirus Protocol by organizing gatherings of thousands of people. He surrendered to the police earlier this month and faces a jail term of six years. A few days before his arrest, six of his bodyguards were shot by the police and officers spoke of self-defense. Mr. Rizik remains in jail.

The order dissolving the group stated that its government registration expired last year and that it was no longer a recognized organization. It is now banned to conduct activities and use its logo, a triangular symbol with a star in the center and its name in Indonesian and Arabic letters.

The government said 29 members of the group were convicted of acts of terror, but provided no details or evidence. It said it was convicted of 100 other crimes.

Indonesia’s political, legal and security affairs minister Mohammed Mahfood MD quoted the group as saying, “With this ban, it has no legal stand.”

A spokesperson for the group, Novel Bamukmin, said members would not be deterred by the dissolution of the organization, commonly known by their acquaintance of Indonesia, the FPI.

“They can dissolve the FPI, but they cannot dissolve our struggle in defense of the country and religion,” he said. “If we want, we can announce a new Islamic mass organization this afternoon. If it is dissolved, we can continuously create a new one. Registered or not, we exist.”

The Islamic Defenders Front was established in the late 1990s as military rule came to an end. At that time, the army’s top generals formed civilian contingents such as the FPI to help sustain them.

The group soon became known for enforcing their concept of Islamic laws, committing vandalism, persecuting rival sects and attacking gay and lesbian incidents. Through the years, it expanded its agenda to provide civilian rescue services and evolved into a political and social movement, benefiting many thousands of followers, attracted by Mr. Rizik’s anti-establishment message.

Ian Wilson, a senior lecturer at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, said, “Given the popularity of the group and the widespread use of its symbols, this order would be difficult to implement.” “Some people will abandon it, but it will likely radicalize others.”

Hours after this announcement, soldiers and police officers arrived at the group’s Jakarta headquarters and took off a huge banner displaying Mr. Rijik’s photo.

Saudi-educated Mr. Rizik, who co-founded the group and remains its foremost leader, has attracted controversy for a long time. In 2017, she left Indonesia facing a pornography charge and extramarital affair charges and remained in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia.

When he returned to Jakarta in November, he was welcomed by thousands of supporters and hosted several large celebrations in the following days. He later apologized for violating the coronavirus restrictions, but not enough to keep him out of prison.

Returning to Indonesia, which is officially secular, Mr. Rizik also posed a challenge to President Joko Widodo’s government and pledged to push Indonesia towards a more conservative vision of Islam.

In his recent sermons, Mr. Rizik accused Mr. Joko and his government of putting the country in peril because leaders lack ethics. He said that to be a moral person means to follow Islamic or Sharia law.

He also argues that Indonesia should unite under a single God, and that since Muslims make up the overwhelming majority of Indonesians, they have rules to implement Sharia law and not only for Muslims, but also for all Should have the power to do.

Another radical Islamic group, Hizbut Tahrir, was dissolved in 2017 by the government for promoting the state on the basis of Sharia law rather than secular principles.

“FPI is destructive, disruptive and fuel intolerant,” said Jakarta Zakaroni, a lecturer at Hidayatullah Islamic State University in Syria in Jakarta. “Perhaps the disintegration will not be effective. If members are still having trouble on the road, they should be arrested and taken to court. “

Bangkok to Richard C. Dera Menra Sijabat reported from Padcock and Jakarta. Muktata Suhartas contributed reporting from Bangkok.

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