Jakarta. A firestorm has flared up over a hard-line cleric’s mockery of a traditional Sundanese greeting that he claims is symptomatic of efforts to promote Indonesian culture at the expense of Islam.
Rizieq Shihab, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a rent-a-mob with religious pretensions, sparked the controversy during a sermon earlier this month in Purwakarta, West Java, where he slammed the district chief’s campaign to encourage residents to use the Sundanese greeting “Sampurasun.”
Rizieq, in a cellphone video obtained by a Sundanese community alliance called AMS, twisted the greeting into “campur racun,” or “mixed with poison,” before going on a diatribe about how the promotion of traditional Indonesian culture was sidelining Islam.
In a post on his blog, he went on defend his stance, saying that such efforts were “a poison” distancing people from Islam, and that Indonesians should instead use the Arabic greeting “Assalamualaikum.”
Rizieq accused Purwajarta district chief Dedi Mulyadi of “not just promoting Sundanese culture, but of ruining the Islamic faithful in Purwakarta with ‘campur racun.’”
He also took issue with Dedi’s signing of a local ordinance banning sermons inciting hate, as well as the district chief’s stated preference for the sounds of the Sundanese suling flute over the reciting of the Koran.
Dedi said separately that Rizieq’s remarks were regrettable, especially as they came from an influential and high-profile figure.
“The Sundanese people are deeply offended by the statements by the FPI figure,” he said on Wednesday as quoted by Republika.
“I would like Rizieq or the FPI to immediately apologize to the Sundanese people,” he added.
Dedi also said he supported the move by the community group AMS to file a police report against Rizieq for hate speech. In its report, the group emphasizes that sampurasun is more than just a greeting, but also a token of respect and prayer, and that to mock it is to insult Sundanese culture.
Ridwan Kamil, the mayor of Bandung, the capital of the Sundanese heartland of West Java, has also lashed out at the remarks, saying Rizieq should apologize to the Sundanese people.
“Even if he was joking, I don’t think it was funny at all,” he told Republika on Wednesday.