FPI Members Riot at Jakarta City Council Over Non-Muslim Governor

Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) try to break police lines outside the Jakarta City Council on Friday in protest over the inauguration of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a non-Muslim, as governor of Southeast Asia's largest city. (Photo via @TMCPoldaMetroJaya)

By : Jakarta Globe | on 4:10 PM October 03, 2014
Category : News, Jakarta, Politics, Featured

Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) try to break police lines outside the Jakarta City Council on Friday in protest over the inauguration of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a non-Muslim, as governor of Southeast Asia's largest city. (Photo via @TMCPoldaMetroJaya) Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) try to break police lines outside the Jakarta City Council on Friday in protest over the inauguration of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a non-Muslim, as governor of Southeast Asia's largest city. (Photo via @TMCPoldaMetroJaya)

[This story was updated on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, at 5:52 p.m., to add details on people left wounded and arrests made]

Jakarta. Hundreds of protesters from Indonesia's most notorious hard-line Islamic group assaulted police with rocks and weapons including a sword on Friday and demanded that Basuki Tjahaja Purnama be prevented from serving as Jakarta governor.

The riot left at least 11 officers injured, including one who suffered sword cuts to the arms. Twenty protesters were arrested, police said, of whom four were injured.

The demonstration by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in front of the City Council building in Kebon Sirih turned violent and police refused to back down against the protesters, who tried to break police lines and push farther into the grounds of the council. A line of police behind riot shields crept forward toward the rock-throwing protesters in a measured attempt to not escalate the situation.

Most officers suffered head injuries from projectiles thrown by the mob, who were shouting "God is great."

Police later fired tear gas into the crowd to break up the protest.

In a typically cautious comment, instructive of the kid gloves with which politicians routinely choose to handle incidents involving the FPI, Jakarta City Council deputy speaker Triwisaksana called for more dialogue between the government and "civil society" groups.

"I suggest the city council leaders and Jakarta administration cool down and hold more dialogue with more [representatives of] civil society and not provoke any anger," Triwisaksana said.

The FPI's media wing has consistently voiced its dislike of Basuki, ironically on account of his waspish manner, which the group has blasted as "arrogant."

However, it is the religious factor that seems to be the group's primary concern.

Salim Bin Umar Alattas, who heads the FPI’s Jakarta branch, said last month the group strongly objects to Basuki taking over the post from President-elect Joko Widodo.

“He is not a Muslim and he is too arrogant, his words are rude and he calls people names,” Salim told the Globe. “It’s not proper for a public official to act like that. He must learn ethics.”

Joko, better known as Jokowi, is a Muslim and Basuki, the new governor, is a Protestant Christian.

Also last month, some 300 FPI protesters gathered outside the council and shouted “Get out, get out. We will drag you out of Jakarta if you ever become our governor. Never let an infidel be our leader,” AFP reported.

The FPI gained international notoriety in 2012 when it issued a death threat to pop star Lady Gaga, which forced the singer to cancel a concert in Jakarta. Its members were also responsible for the death of a woman in Kendal, Central Java, last year during a raid in Ramadan. FPI members struck the woman down while fleeing a protest against establishments serving alcohol.

The government has repeatedly given the FPI a final warning — most unambiguously after the Kendal tragedy, but the group has been able to operate unfettered regardless.

Additional reporting by Bayu Marhaenjati

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