Controversial Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Baasyir, left, shakes hands with Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Muhadjir Effendy at Al-Mukmin Islamic Boarding School in the Central Java district of Sukoharjo on August 17, 2022. (Antara Phot/Maulana Surya)

Unthinkable: Ba’asyir Appears in Independence Day Ceremony

AUGUST 17, 2022

Jakarta. Ex-terror convict Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, known as the spiritual leader of shadowy militant group Jemaah Islamiyah that aims to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia, did the unthinkable on Wednesday as he participated in the Independence Day ceremony at his boarding school in the Central Java district of Sukoharho.

It was also the first ever August 17 ceremony to be held by the Al Mukmin Islamic Boarding School since Ba’asyir founded it in 1972.

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The elderly cleric has for long encouraged his followers and students to oppose the government unless the constitution is replaced by the Koran and refused to recognize any state symbol.

Dressing in white Muslim clothes and carrying a walking stick, Ba’asyir showed a deep reverence throughout the whole proceeding, reported Kompas.

“It was the first ever [Independence Day] ceremony here since the school was founded,” Ba’asyir, who was born 84 years ago today, told the news website.

His willingness to finally recognize state symbols apparently got government attention, as Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Muhadjir Effendy was sent to preside over the ceremony.

Also present at the ceremony were the leaders of the local police and military offices who sat on the same row as Ba'asyir.

The organizers said around 1,300 students took part in the ceremony with military personnel involved in preparation to train the national flag raisers days in advance.

Ba’asyir has a long history of condemning any state symbol and was arrested in 1983 during the Soeharto regime for inciting others to abandon state ideology Pancasila and for saying that the salute to the national flag is a form of apostasy.

After spending more than a decade in neighboring Malaysia to avoid Soeharto’s law apparatus, he returned in 1999 to establish the Indonesian Mujahedin Council which aims to implement Islamic law in Indonesia.

He was arrested by the National Police for his alleged role in the Oct. 12, 2002 twin Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people and was sentenced to 30 months in prison for “giving his blessing” to the bombers.

There was no evidence of his direct involvement in the bombings but police and several governments believe he is the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, the group behind the deadly attack whose victims are mostly foreign holidaymakers.

In 2011, Baasyir was sentenced to 15 years in prison for organizing paramilitary training for militants in the province of Aceh. He got a compassionate release last January.

Earlier this month, Ba’asyir appeared in a video and said he finally accepts Pancasila as the state ideology because Muslim clerics were involved in its formulation back in 1945 and also because the first of the five principles in Pancasila is “Belief in One God”.

“In the past, I believed that Pancasila is syirik [polytheism], but after I’ve learned further about it, it’s unlikely that those clerics would accept a state ideology that promotes polytheism. Clerics are obliged to prove their good faith,” he said.

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