Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) leader Habib Rizieq Shihab, now the self-proclaimed 'High Priest' of Indonesian Muslims. (Antara Photo/Puspa Perwitasari)

Muslims All Over Indonesia Reject Rizieq’s Self-Proclaimed Title of High Priest


JANUARY 12, 2017

Jakarta. Various mass organizations from all over Indonesia have rejected a call by Habib Rizieq Shihab, the leader of hardline group FPI, or the Islamic Defenders Front, to ordain himself as the high priest of Indonesian Muslims.

Nahdlatul Ulama's youth group GP Ansor Chairman Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said Rizieq’s self-proclaimed title has no legitimacy at all.

"It's ridiculous. Islam doesn't recognize the concept or title of a high priest. What is a high priest?” Yaqut said on Thursday (12/01).

"This high priest wants to lead Muslims, but which Muslims? Muslims don't feel that he is their leader. We reject this preposterous idea," he said.

GP Ansor branches in Banten and Batam also scoff at the idea of Rizieq being their leader. They say Rizieq's proclamation smacked of political interests.

Meanwhile, GP Ansor Manado Chairman Rusli Umar said, "We don't need a [Muslim] high priest in this republic."

Say no to Rizieq as high priest of Islam

A similar objection was voiced by the Banten branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

"MUI Banten rejects Rizieq's move to ordain himself as high priest of Islam and call on all Muslims not to acknowledge the title," MUI Banten Chairman and cleric A.M. Romli said.

In Yogyakarta, one of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organizations, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), also rejected Rizieq's announcement.

"Does [Rizieq] even fit his own criteria?" NU Yogyakarta chairman Nizar Ali Nizar said on Wednesday.

Two prominent Islamic boarding schools in Yogyakarta, Pondok Pesantren Sunan Kalijogo Gesikan in Bantul and Assalaffiyah Mlangi in Sleman also said they will not recognize Rizieq’s self-proclaimed title.

Firebrand cleric faces long list of police reports

In East Kalimantan, youth and student organizations have declared their opposition to FPI, who they saw as an anarchic group.

The Alliance of Balikpapan Muslim Youths (APPMB) demanded that the mayor of Balikpapan ban FPI and its affiliate group, the Guardians of the Fatwas of the Indonesian Ulema Council (GNPF-MUI), from conducting activities in the city on account of their anti-diversity stance.

In West Java, several local organizations are accusing Rizieq of insulting the Sundanese culture. The firebrand cleric allegedly made a pun on "sampurasun" ("hello" in Sundanese), deliberately changing it into "campur racun" ("mixed with poison").

Rizieq has faced and is facing a long list of police reports against him.

The FPI leader is facing accusations of plotting against the state, defamation, blasphemy and hate speech.

Recently, he was reported to the Jakarta Police again for a speech that went viral on social media, in which he allegedly said the new rupiah banknotes feature the hammer-and-sickle symbol that resembles the logo of the long-disbanded and still banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Rizieq claimed he is not worried by the many legal proceedings against him, arguing that he had only expressed "general worries."

Several watchdog organizations and experts have called on the National Police to fast track their investigations against the FPI leader.