Jakarta. An elderly man believed to be the leader of Muslim group Khilafatul Muslimin was arrested in the province of Lampung early on Tuesday after group members staged a rally in Jakarta promoting a caliphate.
Abdul Qodir Baraja was flown to Jakarta for questioning related to the May 29 motorcycle convoy in which his followers carried banners in support of the Islamic caliphate, Jakarta Police spokesman Chief Comr. Endra Zulpan said.
Videos circulating on social media accounts show one banner that reads: “Embrace the rise of the Islamic caliphate.”
Abdul was arrested at the group’s headquarters in the provincial capital Bandar Lampung by a team from the Jakarta Police.
The officer said earlier that the group was being investigated for a potential violation of the 1945 Constitution because they incited hatred towards the legitimate government and intended to introduce a new government system.
A similar rally was held in the Central Java town of Brebes, leading to the arrest of three suspects on Monday.
Central Java Police spokesman Chief Comr. Iqbal Alqudusy told the Antara news agency the group’s actions could amount to treason for promoting the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia.
He also said Khilafatul Muslimin is the core of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, another caliphate-inspired group that has been officially banned.
In an interview with Jakarta Globe’s sister publication Beritasatu at his Lampung residence last week, Abdul denied that his group was against the constitution and the national ideology Pancasila.
"The Khilafatul Muslimin was founded to unite Muslims and non-Muslims to defend NKRI," Abdul said, using the acronym that stands for the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.
“There is no intention to divide this nation whatsoever.”
The motorcycle convoy is part of a religious campaign to promote unity as prescribed by the Koran, he added.
“We have thousands of followers in Lampung and they live in harmony and peace [with other communities],” Abdul said.
He claimed that since its establishment in 1997, the group has drawn millions of followers across the globe.
A counter-terrorism official said Abdul was a repeat terror convict who has spent 16 years in prison for bomb attacks, including the one at the Borobudur Temple in Central Java in 1985.
Abdul is also a co-founder of Al Mukmin Islamic Boarding School in Ngruki, Central Java, together with Abu Bakar Baasyir, who many governments believe is the spiritual leader of terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, according to Ahmad Nurwakhid, a director with the National Counterterrorism Agency, or BNPT.
“They may say that they have no problem with Pancasila, but their ideology perceives anything other than their own belief as an infidel system,” Ahmad told Detikcom news website.
“Historically, the founder of this group [Khilafatul Muslim] has links with other radical groups such as the NII [Indonesian Islamic State] and the MMI [Indonesian Mujahideen Council] and he himself has a record of terrorism,” he said.