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Front Pembela Islam / Defenders of Islam Front

The Defenders of Islam Front or Front Pembela Islam (FPI) is the best known example of a religious vigilante group which seeks to influence social discourse and promote its brand of religious conservatism through rowdy demonstrations aod intimidation. FPI's activity is often criminal: during the annual fasting month of Ramadan, FPI members threaten attacks against nightclubs and bars unless they close, nominally on religious grounds but also as a form of extortion. FPI-inspired violence against the Muslim minority sect Ahmadiyah in February 2011 caused the death of three Ahmadis.

The Front Pembela Islam, the Front for Defenders of Islam, is one of the new conservative groups that has emerged following the downfall of President Suharto in 1998). FPI was founded in 1998, apparently with the backing from military and police generals. The organization's aim is the implementation of shari’a law in Indonesia. It is loosely organized with offices around the country open membership totaling perhaps 150,000. For years the FPI has attacked businesses, bars, brothels and people they deem to be violating Islamic law.

The FPI also has the longest and clearest history of collaboration with military sponsors. However, it is instructive to recall that even this organization clashed with police officials several times during 2000 and 2001. In one well-publicized incident, FPI activists on a bus were actually fired on by uniformed police officers aiming to prevent FPI activists from launching a raid on centers of “vice” to which the Islamists objected. In the aftermath of such clashes, the FPI leadership threatened violence against any police and army officials who dared to take such measures in the future. This defiance illustrates both the FPI’s relative autonomy from military sponsors and, more important, the leadership’s awareness that there are significant factions in the army, the police, and, perhaps most important, the intelligence community who would be happy to see the FPI suppressed.

By around the year 2000 there were hundreds of Islamist paramilitaries operating across Indonesia. Muslim sources in Surakarta, Central Java, have indicated that there are literally dozens of groups in that city alone (a bastion of hardline Islamism). Some groups are loosely linked to broader, national organizations such as, most notably, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the largest of the Islamist paramilitaries. But others are undisciplined, freelance groups independent of any national organization. FPI has attacked the American Embassy in Jakarta, and FPI vigilantes have also gone for other targets – bars, cafes and brothels – venues they consider to be dens of vice and immorality. The founder and leader of the FPI is Habib Muhammad Rizieq. He considers the main enemy to be other believers, Muslims who have a liberal interpretation of their faith.

Habib Rizieq, Founder Islamic Defenders Front, stated: "Liberalism, secularism and pluralism, these are criminal thinking, these are criminal ideology. Of course they are not criminal acts. If you kill it’s a criminal act. But criminal thinking and criminal ideology directly attack Islam. This is more dangerous than crimes of murder, rape or theft. Because they are physical crimes, whereas these are criminal thoughts, criminal ideologies, which directly attack the essence of Islamic teachings."

The rise of conservative Islam is at odds with other forces in Indonesia. The country is finally emerging from the economic crash that hit Asia in the late 1990s, and it’s in the midst of a boom. All sectors of society, workers from the country who are flocking to Jakarta, the burgeoning middle class, and the wealthy elite – want a modern Westernised lifestyle. Indonesian teenagers also want a slice of contemporary affluent culture. This is partly what’s fuelling the conservative Muslim backlash here – like conservative parents the world over, they’re worried about the impact on their children of events like this concert. They see it as a threat to traditional religious values. The arrival of Islam in Indonesia was a very different experience to that in the Middle East, where the religion was spread by violent conquest which swept away all before it. But here it absorbed and tolerated other influences, like the indigenous, the Hindu and Buddhist cultures which pre-dated it.

Jemaah Islamiyah [JI] represents an evolutionary development of the Indonesian Islamic movement, Darul Islam (DI), which fought a violent insurgency to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia in the 1950s and 1960s. JI’s goals are essentially those of DI, but with a regional perspective. Having a common heritage in DI has facilitated close links between JI and other violent extremist groups in Indonesia. These groups, including DI remnants, Front Pembela Islam (FPI), Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), KOMPAK (Crisis Action Committee), and Laskar Jundullah, provide recruits and support networks for JI activity. JI continues to recruit covertly from its network of pesantren (Islamic boarding schools), religious study groups and through personal contacts.

In 2016, hundreds of FPI members demonstrated against Jakarta’s Christian deputy governor-elect, calling on the City Council to revoke all bylaws granting him authority to oversee Islamic institutions and affairs.

The president of Indonesia canceled a trip to Australia after a massive rally against a Christian governor accused of insulting Islam erupted into violence in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. One person was killed and at least 160 people were injured in the violence after Friday prayers on 04 November 2016. Ten people were arrested. The foreign ministry said President Joko Widodo would reschedule his trip because the “current development has required the president to stay in Indonesia.” The protest was mounted against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese and minority Christian, accused of blasphemy.

He was reported to have joked to an audience about a passage in the Quran that could be interpreted as prohibiting Muslims from accepting non-Muslims as leaders. Purnama has apologized for his comments, but some Muslim hard-liners have insisted on his arrest for blasphemy. Al-Maidah 51 states "O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you - then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people."

This Surah was revealed to suit the requirements of the changed conditions which were now different from those prevailing at the time of the revelation of Al-i-'Imran and An- Nisa. As a result of their continuous struggle and unparalleled sacrifices, the power of. the surrounding clans, within a radius of 200 miles or so, had been broken. The Jewish menace which was always threatening Al-Madinah had been totally removed and the Jews in the other parts of Hijaz had-become tributaries of the State of Al-Madinah. The last effort of the Quraish to suppress Islam had been thwarted in the Battle of the Ditch. After this, it had become quite obvious to the Arabs that no power could suppress the Islamic movement. Now Islam was not merely a creed which ruled over the minds and hearts of the people but had also become a State which dominated over every aspect of the life of the people who lived within its boundaries.

The hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI) filed a police report against Ahok alleging blasphemy. Purnama, better known by his Chinese nickname "Ahok", became Jakarta's first non-Muslim governor for 50 years when he took over from Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in 2014. He is the first ethnic Chinese Indonesian in the post, a significant development given the violent anti-Chinese riots that occurred in the city in 1998. Ahok had previously served as Jokowi's deputy.

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Page last modified: 24-04-2017 16:05:33 ZULU