01 June 2008

FPI -- Thugs in Robes

The Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam / FPI) has been beefing up its credentials as thugs earlier this afternoon. In so doing it is providing the government all the necessary proof and evidence that this organization needs to be disbanded. The fact that it has been allowed to exist for as long as it has and be allowed to commit a long list of breaches of the law should be an embarrassment to a government that is trying to sell Indonesia as a peaceful and tolerant destination to spend your hard earned cash. Not only is it an embarrassment it is a joke and makes a mockery of not only Pancasila (today is the commemoration of the Five Principles philosophy as the State ideology).

It is being reported that earlier today at about 14.30 the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion (Aliansi Kebangsaan untuk Kebebasan Berkeyakinan dan Beragama / AKKBB) was set upon by a couple of hundred thugs from the FPI at Monas (Soekarno's phallic ode to himself and his manhood -- photo by someone named Murbiyanto) close to the Gambir railway station. There are seven people seriously injured including Syafii Anwar (Director of ICIP) and Muhammad Guntur Romli (an activist from Liberal Islam Network) both of whom are being treated in RSPAD Gatot Subroto. The list of injured also includes Ahmad Suaedy (the Executive Director of the Wahid Institute).

The AKKBB were holding a rally at Monas to mark the birth of Pancasila on 1 June. This was to be marked with a joint prayer in recognition of diversity and tolerance among other things.

It is high time the government acted against thugs and others seeking to impose their will through violence and intimidation. Any failure to act is nothing more than condoning the violence and condoning the methods used to suppress free expression. If Indonesia is truly a tolerant country then now is the time for the government to step up to the plate by clearly and unequivocally stating that this thuggery perpetrated by the FPI or their supporters will not be tolerated and then prosecute anyone breaking the law to the full extent possible under the prevailing laws.

Unfortunately, I am not an optimist on this front. Indonesia has so much potential and there are so many of us who hope for her to achieve that potential. Yet, the government's record to date has been woeful. We have just commemorated 10 years of reformation but the truth be told, reformasi will never be fully achieved until their is justice. Justice not only for all of the victims of the New Order's excesses but for more recent excesses as well such as the killings at Trisakti / Semanggi and the violence of May 1998 and more recently the mud flow disaster at Sidoarjo.

I live with hope because for where there is no hope there is only death!



brommel said...

Rob: Can't agree more with you on the thugs in robes but where are the limits?

You wrote that it is high time the government acts against thugs and others seeking to impose their will through violence and intimidation. What about violence in terms of noise? In most Islamic countries you get the 5 prayer calls (nowadays) via loudspeakers from mosques but in Indonesia we have have mosques AND prayer houses well equipped with loudspeakers. Some musholas transmit via loudspeakers whatever happens on their prayer carpets. I am wondering why people go to musholas at all, it seems that most of the musholas are equipped to come into any nearby home. Freedom of religion?

Rob Baiton said...


First things first...Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment!

The line in the sand is always going to be the difficult question. I have no problem with the call to prayer. I have been in Indonesia a while and I think over that period of time I have become immune to it. Or the more likely scenarion is that I am just getting old and a little more deaf with each passing year!

I agree that even the passers by will get an earful wanted or not.

I wonder if Indonesian Muslims really want to characterize their brand of Islam within the framework of violence perpetrated by the likes of FPI.

I have no problem with freedom of religion (the arguments for it I use in stating my case that Ahmadiyya should not be banned -- bad law if it is -- my opinion). The call to prayer is part of the Islamic faith so in that sense it goes with the territory so to speak...

In any event, and in my own mind, I can differentiate the call to prayer and the violence. The call to prayer I can live with the violence I simply cannot tolerate

What can I do about the violence? I am not sure! I am a guest in this country and I am sure the government would not take kindly to my interfering, but I make my views know in my blog and I post in my own name (with a happy snappy too)...

I am working on the theory that sooner or later if I throw enough stones the ripples will start to have an effect.

Once again, thanks for dropping by!

tere616 said...

Rob, as an Indonesian, it's is hard for me to still have the hope.

It's difficult for Indonesia to proof themselves as the diversity country, since the diversity is one of their main agenda to get the power.

Like Gus Dur said, that the government need the courage to disolve the FPI.

Brommel : As an Indonesian citizen, Catholic married with Moslem, maybe am immune with the call prayer, but when the sermon have the tendency of "violence" then I felt annoyed. Because the sermon led the moslem hate the non moslem, and led to "violence" in any form.

Rob Baiton said...


You can never give up and lose hope! If we give up then we accept that the world can never be a better place.

I refuse to accept that the world cannot be a better place, one person at a time.

brommel said...

Rob, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the call for prayers at all. It's part of Islam, as we all know.

It is a uniqueness of Indonesia to allow its prayer halls to perform as mosques with loudspeakers. Anyway, what keeps me wondering is what is being transmitted over the noisy speakers and how often. I happen to live close to a mushola and I do get a lot of chanting and preaching besides the prayer calls. Often some sessions last for 2 hours (Thursday, (not on Fridays!!!), Saturday and Sunday). From my experience in many other Muslim countries (Jemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan besides others) this is unique. May everybody enjoy such religious freedom then.

Rob Baiton said...

Brommel...Indeed to religious freedom!

Yes, Indonesia is a unique place!

Therry said...

You are very patriotic Rob - and might I say, more patriotic than me :P

Some days I feel like there is still hope for Indonesia to become a better place to live and settle down in, but most days I feel those hopes sinking into the abyss.

If the government could not even get to the bottom of what had caused the tragedy of May '98, solve the Lapindo mud flow (if they couldn't solve it at least get the Bakrie brothers to do it since apparently they are very 'caring' people, it says so in their company motto), and most of all, do something, ANYTHING at all, to stop the corruption amongst the government officials and the council members, I have serious doubts they could even give a small fraction of their attention regarding FPI and religious freedom.

GJ said...

Hi Rob, I read some of these comments with dismay. To hear smart, educated (I assume this from reading their posts) Indonesians are losing hope in this country is disturbing. The potential is great, greater than many other places but hope is needed to realise that potential. Indifference would spell disaster for Indonesia. I have hope!!!!!!

Rob Baiton said...


I really do not believe there is indifference to this in Indonesia.

I do feel though that a "critical mass" response is still going to need more time to develop!

I always have had hope when it comes to Indonesia and that will never change...

The eternal optimist I guess!