Indonesia bans militant Islamic Defender’s Front

The Islamic Defender’s Front has a long record of vandalizing nightspots and hurling stones at Western embassies. Several of its members have been convicted on terrorism charges.

Members of the Indonesian police hold up guns and a knife allegedly used by the FPI. (dw.com photo)

JAKARTA

Indonesia has banned the hardline Islamic Defender’s Front, according to an international media report quoting security officials.

Security Affairs Minister Mohammad Mahfud announced on Wednesday that the group, known by its Indonesian acronym FPI, was disbanded last year as a mass organization. “But it had continued to carry out activities that violate order and security,” he added.

The government also prohibited the use of the FPI symbols and attributes.

The hardline Islamic group has gained political and social influence in recent years through humanitarian and charity work.

What is the Islamic Defender’s Front?

The FPI was formed soon after fall of former Indonesia strongman Suharto in 1998.

They want Islamic Shariah law to apply to Indonesia’s 230 million Muslims. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

The FPI were notorious for raiding bars and brothels and intimidating religious minorities.

The group gained significant political and social influence in recent years through humanitarian and charity work.

It was a key organizer of massive street protests in 2016 and 2017 against the Christian governor of Jakarta, who was subsequently imprisoned for insulting Islam.

Why was it banned?

Deputy Justice Minister Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej said on Wednesday that the FPI was outlawed because nearly 30 of its leaders, members and former members had been convicted on terrorism charges.

He said the group conflicted with Indonesia’s state ideology, known as Pancasila, which emphasizes unity and diversity.

Six senior government officials, including the attorney general, police chief and counter-terrorism agency head were involved in the decision to ban the group, Security Affairs Minister Mahfud said.

Ban follows Islamic cleric’s arrest

The move to ban FPI follows the arrest of the group’s spiritual figurehead, Islamic cleric Rizieq Shihab earlier this month.

Shihab turned himself over to police after holding large events to celebrate his return from a three-year self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia. The events breached coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

His return has fueled concerns within government that he could be angling to harness opposition forces. WITH DW.COM

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