Jakarta. Despite the noisy and cordial welcome by a huge crowd wherever Rizieq Syihab arrives, it turns out that a majority of Indonesian people don’t like the leader of the hardline group Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, according to a recent poll.
Rizieq made headlines early this month when he arrived in the country after a two-year stay in Saudi Arabia. Thousands of supporters welcomed him at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, causing a massive traffic jam and raising public concerns over a potentially super-spreader event as the country is still battling the coronavirus outbreak.
At least three other events in his presence, including his daughter’s wedding, have attracted a huge crowd with a glaring disregard for physical distancing rule. As a result, police chiefs in Jakarta and West Java have been demoted for failing to enforce the health protocol.
A survey by Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting indicates that 73 percent of Indonesian people know Rizieq. However, 57 percent of them view him unfavorably versus 43 percent favorably.
“It’s far below the likeable rating of other public figures in a previous survey,” SMRC executive director Sirojudin Abbas told a video conference in Jakarta on Thursday.
Among those who have negative opinion said Rizieq was notorious for inciting hatred and divisions, he said.
A similar portion of respondents also viewed the FPI negatively, Abbas added.
Rizieq, 55, left for Saudi Arabia in 2018 amid allegations of sexual chats with a female supporter and defamatory and treason charges related his speeches.
During his stay in the Kingdom, he regularly released monologue videos in which he accused President Joko Widodo of fraud during the 2019 election without providing strong evidence to substantiate his claims.
The SMRC survey was conducted on November 18-21 involving interviews with 1,201 randomly chosen respondents across the country. It has a margin of sampling error plus-minus 2.9 percentage points, the firm said.
An October survey by the same pollster found that other political figures have favorable opinion above 70 percent. They include Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, former Jakarta deputy governor Sandiaga Uno, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s son Agus Harimurti.