The Indonesian Government says it will ban the ultra-conservative Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir because of the threat it poses to public order and national unity.
- Hizb ut-Tahrir is not a terrorist group, and says it opposes violence
- The group wants sharia law and an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia
- It was one of several groups involved in the Jakarta protests
It is the Government’s first major counterstrike against the organisations behind the huge protests in Jakarta against the city’s Christian Governor Ahok, and comes as a court hands down its verdict today in his blasphemy trial.
Most analysts expect Ahok to be convicted of blasphemy, although prosecutors say he should receive a 12-month suspended jail term.
That will infuriate his most vocal opponents, who will gather for the final time this morning outside a court in Central Jakarta to push for his jailing.
They say he insulted Islam by saying that Islamic voters were being misled by clerics who claimed that the Koran prevents Muslims from voting for a Christian.
Indonesian law expert Professor Tim Lindsey, said it was likely he would be convicted, but his sentence may be light.
“There’s no doubt the judges are under a great deal of political pressure,” he said.
“The forces mobilised against Ahok during the election include some very hard line Islamist organisations and vigilante groups, and some quasi-criminal groups like the FPI, the Islamic Defenders Front, and the FUI, the Islamic Community Forum.
“These organisations at one point brought out well over half a million people onto the streets, and in an Indonesian political context that sort of mob presence is very frightening to politicians and public servants.”
It’s almost 20 years since big street protests led to the end of President Suharto’s rule.
‘We are legal, in order, peaceful’
Hizb ut-Tahrir is not a terrorist group — it says it opposes violence, but it does want sharia law for Indonesia and the creation of an Islamic caliphate here.
Security minister and retired General, Wiranto, said authorities would begin legal proceedings to ban the group, which has about 100,000 members.
The announcement comes as a court today hands down its verdict on the Ahok trial. (Reuters: Darren Whiteside)
“We want to prevent the embryo from developing and disrupting public order, and disturbing the existence of a nation that’s trying to achieve prosperity and justice,” he said.
Its members have been calling for the jailing of Governor Ahok, who is a political ally of President Joko Widodo.
Ahok was not re-elected to the post in last month’s elections in Jakarta, losing to Muslim candidate Anies Baswedan following a bitterly fought campaign.
Mr Lindsey said that now the election was over, the Government was striking back against the hardliners.
“These hardline groups who are out on the fringe have muscled their way into mainstream politics in Indonesia,” he said.
“They’ve resulted in a close colleague of the President being thrown out of office and charged with blasphemy.”
Hizb-ut Tahrir’s spokesman Ismail Yusanto said the group had been unfairly targeted.
Members of hardline Muslim groups hold a national flag at one of the anti-Ahok protests. (Reuters: Beawiharta Beawiharta)
“We are legal, in order, peaceful, and our activities have never created any legal issue. That is why what is being announced by the Government raises the big questions, ‘what is going on?’, ‘what has been accused of us?'”
The most vocal group at the anti-Ahok rallies was not Hizb ut-Tahrir — it was the Islamic Defenders Front, also known as the FPI.
General Wiranto was asked whether that group would be the next targeted.
“The others will studied [sic], don’t be hasty — one at a time,” he said.