A prominent politician says the president will not use his authority to disband a hard-line Islamic group notorious for its vigilante antics without first consulting with the country’s major Muslim organizations.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s decision to consult with the religious-based organizations Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah was disclosed by senior Democratic Party legislator politician Melanie Leimena Suharly.
“The president will probably take action if all elements, especially NU and Muhammadiyah, agree that the FPI needs to be disbanded,” Melanie said on Friday, referring to the Islamic Defenders Front.
She said that despite the president having the full authority to disband the FPI, he did not want to make a careless decision or break the law.
“We don’t want to see the president ready to [disband] but then be opposed by other elements. The president wants everything to be done based on agreements from all elements in the public because he doesn’t want to violate the law or human rights,” she said.
The government is facing mounting pressure to disband the hard-line organization following its attempt last week to raid a suspected brothel in Kendal, Central Java, which resulted in a clash with locals in which an innocent motorist was killed.
Three FPI members have been arrested and charged in the incident, including the driver of the car involved in the hit-and-run on the motorist.
The deadly incident sparked public outrage, particularly in light of the FPI’s long history of conducting vigilante raids and the police’s repeated reluctance to prosecute the group. Even president was compelled to speak out following the latest act of violence.
On Monday, Yudhoyono published a Facebook post urging the FPI to refrain from using violence.
“I call on my brothers in the FPI to stop their use of violence and taking justice in their own hands,” the president said.
“The way to fight sinful activities and religious deviants should not be done by doing something that is more deviant. I’m sure the FPI can do many things that are better and more useful for the people and our society,” he added.
However, the FPI responded to Yudhoyono’s statement by publishing a controversial retort from its chairman, Rizieq Shihab, on its website.
“It’s a pity. SBY appears to be ... a mere loser who likes spreading lies and remaining silent about sinful activities. Not to mention, he’s been protecting the Ahmadiyah and [individuals involved in] various corruption scandals. This Muslim president is a disgrace to Islamic teachings,” Rizieq’s statement said.
He added that Yudhoyono could criticize the FPI all he wanted.
“Because SBY is the chairman of the most corrupt party, he is causing people to lose and suffer. Worse than that, according to Yudhoyono’s former minister, the president never prays. Those two points mean he’s not only hurting Islam, but betraying Islam,” Rizieq said.
The National Police confirmed on Thursday that they had set up a special task force to investigate Rizieq for possible defamation of the head of state.
“The chief of the criminal investigation division has established an investigation team under orders from the National Police chief,” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie said as quoted by the Antara news agency on Thursday.
“The National Police have decided to directly investigate the issue without waiting for a report [to be filed] because it concerns our country’s highest leader.”
Ronny said that the special investigation team would collect all of Rizieq’s statements, both in print and online, to construct a legal case.
“Regarding the law that will be used [to charge Rizieq], it will depend on the facts. We will find which law best regulates the alleged violation,” he said.
Ronny said that the police were obliged to investigate the case even if the president did not press charges.
Democratic Party politician Ruhut Sitompul, who is also a lawyer, said that Rizieq could be sued for defamation.
Melanie lamented Rizieq’s statement, saying that it was wrong for him to attack the head of state.
However, Saleh Partaonan Daulay, chairman of the youth wing of Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-biggest Islamic organization, called on the president not to overreact regarding the Kendal incident.
“The controversy actually benefits FPI because it continues to be a topic of discussion and news,” he said.
Saleh said that the president did not have to respond in public and that he should have just ordered the police to take firm action against everyone involved in the incident.
He said that because the FPI was part of the public, it should be legally processed whenever it violated the law or caused a public disturbance.