BANGKOK-On Wednesday, the hardline Islamic Defenders Front was declared illegal by the Indonesian government and ordered its fiery leader, Rizieq Shihab, to be exiled and promised to lead a “moral revolution.” After less than two months, all activities were stopped. “
The government stated in a statement signed by senior officials and the chief of the national police that members of the group have engaged in terrorist and criminal acts, and that the activities organized by the group disrupt public order.
Mr. Rizieq, 55, who claims to be a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, is accused of holding a gathering of thousands of people in violation of the coronavirus agreement. He surrendered to the police earlier this month and faces up to six years in prison. A few days before his arrest, six of his bodyguards were shot and killed by the police, which the authorities described as self-defense. Mr. Rizieq is still in prison.
The government said 29 members of the group had been convicted of terrorist acts, but did not provide any details or evidence. It said 100 people were convicted of other crimes.
Indonesia’s Minister of Politics, Law and Security, Mohammad Mahfud MD, stated: “With this ban, it has no legal status.”
The spokesperson of the organization Novel Bamukmin said that members will not be shocked by the dissolution of the organization, which is usually known by the Indonesian acronym FPI.
He said: “They can dissolve the FPI, but they cannot dissolve our struggle to defend the country and religion.” “If we want, we can announce a new Islamic mass organization this afternoon. If it is disbanded, we can continuously create a new one. Whether to register or not, we will all continue to exist.”
With the end of military rule, the Islamic Defenders Front was established in the late 1990s. At that time, senior generals established militia organizations, such as FPI, to help them retain power.
The organization quickly became known for strengthening its Islamic legal concepts by destroying bars, persecuting rival sects and attacking homosexual incidents. Over the years, it has expanded the agenda of providing civilian rescue services and evolved into a political and social movement, attracting thousands of followers who were attracted by Mr. Rizieq’s anti-establishment message.
“Considering the popularity of the organization and the widespread use of its symbols, the order will be difficult to enforce,” said Ian Wilson, a senior lecturer at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. “Some people may give it up, but it may irritate others.”
A few hours after the announcement, soldiers and police arrived at the organization’s Jakarta headquarters and put down a large banner showing Mr. Rizieq’s photo.
The Saudi educated Mr. Rizieq is the co-founder of the group and remains its most high-profile leader, which has long caused controversy. In 2017, he left Indonesia in the face of allegations of pornography and extramarital affairs and was self-exiled in Saudi Arabia.
When he returned to Jakarta in November, he was welcomed by thousands of supporters and organized several large gatherings in the following days. He later apologized for violating coronavirus restrictions, but this was not enough to get him out of prison.
After Mr. Rizieq returned to officially secularized Indonesia, he also challenged the government of President Joko Widodo and pledged to push Indonesia towards a more conservative Islamic perspective.
In a recent sermon, Mr. Riziek accused Mr. Choko and his government of leading the country into a crisis because the leaders lacked morality. He believes that a moral person means abiding by Islam or Sharia law.
He also believes that Indonesia should be united under a single God, and since Muslims constitute the vast majority of Indonesians, they should have the right to enforce Islamic law, not only for Muslims, but for everyone.
Another radical Islamic organization, Hizbut Tahrir, was disbanded by the government in 2017 because he promoted a state based on Sharia law rather than secular principles.
Jajang Jahroni, a lecturer at the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University in Jakarta, said: “FPI is destructive, destructive, and fosters intolerance.” “Maybe dissolution will not be effective. If members are still causing trouble in the street, they should be removed Arrested and taken to court.”
Richard C. Paddock (from Bangkok) and Dera Menra Sijabat (from Jakarta). Muktita Suhartono contributed the Bangkok report.