Islamic Defenders Front
The Islamic Defenders Front (Indonesian: Front Pembela Islam (FPI)) , is an Indonesian Islamist political organization formed in 1998. It was founded by Muhammad Rizieq Shihab with backing from Indonesian military, police generals and political elites. The organization's leader is Ahmad Shabri Lubis, who was inaugurated in 2015, and Rizieq Shihab remains acting as the adviser with the title Great Imam of the FPI for life.
Front Pembela Islam (FPI)
Zone of influence
|Formation||17 August 1998|
|Founder||Muhammad Rizieq Shihab|
|Type||Sunni Islamist organization|
|Headquarters||Petamburan, West Jakarta|
|Ahmad Shabri Lubis|
The FPI originally started as a civil vigilante group that positioned itself as an Islamic moral police force against vice, whose activity was not authorized by the government. The FPI targeted several warungs (small stalls), stores, bars, nightclubs and entertainment venues which were perceived as discourteous for selling alcohol or being open during Ramadhan. Later, it transformed itself into an Islamist pressure group with active online campaigns.
The organization has organized a number of religious and political mass protests; the most prominent example being the November 2016 Jakarta protests and several other rallies against the incumbent Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in the subsequent months. Another prominent protest orchestrated by the FPI was a rally at the American Embassy condemning the Iraq War, dating back to late 2003. The protests were criticized as conducting hate crimes in the name of Islam and religious-related violence.
The FPI was founded on 17 August 1998 by Habib Muhammad Rizieq Syihab, a Hadhrami Arab Indonesian of Sufi Sunni Muslim background, who is known for defending Hadhrami Sufi Islam while advocating against Ahmadis and Shias. The establishment received backing from military and police generals, including former Jakarta Police Chief Nugroho Jayusman. It is also associated with former Indonesian National Armed Forces commander Wiranto. Leaked US diplomatic cables obtained through WikiLeaks say that the FPI received funding from the police and former political elites. The organization nominally aims to implement sharia law in Indonesia.
Later, it transformed itself into an Islamist pressure group which furthers its political motives by promoting what is considered as religious or racial propaganda through the Internet and occasional anti-government campaigns. However, in January 2017, several FPI official Twitter accounts were suspended due to violations of Twitter rules, including spamming, incivility and making threats.
Protests and actions
Actions against religious pluralism
This article may be confusing or unclear to readers. (July 2019)
of the Pancasila doctrine which upholds religious pluralism. On 1 June 2008, the FPI staged an attack against members of the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB), who were holding a rally coinciding with the commemoration day of Pancasila near the National Monument in the city center. The attack was claimed as a response to the perceived threat by the AKKBB against the FPI. The incident was referred to by the media as the Monas Incident. It caused media outrage and led to the arrest of Rizieq Shihab among 56 other FPI members. Rizieq was later imprisoned for one year and six months, after being convicted over attacks against the AKKBB. In January 2017, the police declared FPI leader Rizieq Shihab a suspect for alleged defamation of Pancasila .
The FPI also often holds protests against what it sees as the Christianization of Indonesia. Notable targets include GKI Yasmin Bogor, and HKBP Church Bekasi, where the group used violence to force the closure of the churches. The FPI also endorsed the Singkil administration for closing around 20 churches in Singkil, Aceh. This stirred up controversy over the use of the local administrative law in accordance with Sharia, running counter to the Indonesian constitution, which guarantees freedom of religious practice. In early 2017, the FPI and related Islamist groups staged a mass protest against the construction of a new Christian church in Bekasi, West Java. The protest developed into a riot and scuffles with the police, resulting in property damage and five police officers being injured.
Actions against Ahmadiyyah
One of Rizieq Shihab's propaganda campaigns openly called for hostility against Ahmadis:
"We call on the Muslim community. Let us go to war with Ahmadiyyah! Kill Ahmadiyyah wherever they are!........ And, if they talk about human rights? Human rights are satanic! Human rights are crap!.....If they want to know who is responsible for killing Ahmadiyyah, it is I; it is FPI and others from the Muslim community who are responsible for killing Ahmadiyyah! Say that Sobri Lubis ordered it, that Habib Rizieq and FPI ordered it! "
The FPI was suspected of acting behind the scenes in the 6 February 2011 assault against the Ahmadiyyah community, in which three people were killed. The assault was led by a group of over thousand people, wielding rocks, machetes, swords, and spears. They attacked the house of an Ahmadi leader in Cikeusik, Banten. Similarly, a group attacked the Ahmadiyyah headquarters near Bogor and harassed its members in areas such as in East Lombok, Manislor, Tasikmalaya, Parung, and Garut.
Actions against the perceived communist threat
The FPI often employs anti-communism as its political motivation. In June 2010, along with other organizations, the FPI attacked a meeting about free healthcare in East Java, mistaking it for a meeting of the banned Communist Party of Indonesia. In January 2017, the FPI called for the withdrawal of Rupiah banknotes, accused them of displaying the image of the banned hammer and sickle logo. The FPI's allegations, however, were rejected by Bank Indonesia (BI), referring to it as a recto-verso security feature of the BI logo for the new Rupiah banknotes. FPI was accused of stirring public unrest by slandering Bank Indonesia and the government.
Anti-government campaigns and relations with right-wing parties
The FPI has been vocal in campaigns against incumbent governments, starting during President Yudhoyono's presidency. The campaign was said to be more intense during the Joko Widodo era after the Basuki Tjahaja Purnama blasphemy case in 2016. Because of this, the FPI is widely seen as an opposition movement, and is reportedly known to have close relations with various right-wing parties, most of which are opposition parties.
Actions against perceived defamation of Islamic sensitivity
The FPI is sensitive toward the perceived defamation and violation of Islamic norms in various aspects of society. In its early days, FPI targeted shops in Garut and Makassar that sold alcohol during the month of Ramadhan, some of which were reportedly ransacked. Various nightclubs, bars, and cafes were targeted by the FPI for perceived non-conformity with Islamic norms. In 2006, the FPI and other Islamic organizations including the Indonesian Mujahedeen Council protested against the publication of Playboy Indonesia. The protest led to the eviction of the Playboy office from Jakarta to Bali. In 2013, the FPI accused LGBT activists, such as Lady Gaga and Irshad Manji, of being "devils", and threatened their safety. This erupted in controversy in 2013 during Lady Gaga's Born This Way tour, which resulted in the eventual cancellation of concerts in Indonesia. The action was criticized for being a violation of Indonesian law sanctioning violent threats, as prescribed in Article 336 of the Criminal Code.
In 2015, the FPI attacked the Regent of Purwakarta, Dedi Mulyadi, accusing him of being a musyrik (polytheist) after he put up statues of Sundanese puppet characters in a number of city parks throughout Purwakarta in West Java. the FPI accused Dedi of debasing Islamic tenets by violating the aniconist principle of Islam, as well as using the Sundanese greeting Sampurasun, instead of the Muslim-approved Assalamualaikum. In December 2015, around a hundred FPI members conducted a 'sweeping' operation against the regent. Its members inspected cars passing through the front gate of Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) in Central Jakarta where the Indonesia Theater Federation Awards ceremony was being held, attempting to stop Dedi from attending the event.
Opposition and uprising against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama
The FPI was known for its efforts to topple the administration of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok. The FPI criticized Basuki's background as a Christian and Chinese Indonesian, both being minorities, citing that the position of the governor of Jakarta should be reserved only for Muslims. In 2014, the FPI held a demonstration in front of the Jakarta Regional People's Representative Council building in Jakarta. The organization refused to accept Basuki as Jakarta's governor after former governor Joko Widodo was elected President the same year.
In late 2016, during the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election season, the FPI led the national outcry against Basuki for his alleged blasphemy against the Qur'an. As a response to the perceived blasphemy, the FPI organized seven protests titled 'Aksi Bela Islam', ('Action to Defend Islam') in order to create pressure against Basuki and to demand his imprisonment. The protests culminated in the November 2016 Jakarta protests, December 2016 Jakarta protests and February 2017 Jakarta protests. These were held once a month until Basuki's final conviction in May 2017, when he was sentenced to two years imprisonment.
There have been calls by Indonesians, mainly mainstream Muslims, other religious organizations, political communities and ethnic groups, for the FPI to be disbanded or banned. Various critics and media outlets have described the FPI as inciting extremism, racism and bigotry, particularly noting its occasional hate crimes, discrimination against minorities and religious intolerance. An International Crisis Group report called it "an urban thug organization", emphasizing its violent vigilantism. The group has also been criticized for the use of violence; the police have recorded that the FPI engaged in 29 cases of violence and destructive behavior in 2010 and 5 cases in 2011 in West Java, Banten, Central Java, North Sumatra and South Sumatra.
Rejection in Kalimantan
On February 11, 2012, hundreds of protesters from the local community in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan; mainly from the Dayak tribe; staged a protest at Tjilik Riwut Airport to block the arrival of four senior leaders of the group, who wanted to inaugurate the provincial branch of the organization. Due to security concerns, the management of the airport ordered the FPI members to remain on board the aircraft while other passengers disembarked. The FPI members were then flown to Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan. The deputy chairman of the Central Kalimantan Dayak Tribe Council (DAD) later said that the organization had asked the Central Kalimantan Police to ban the group's provincial chapter as the FPI's presence would create tension, particularly as Central Kalimantan is known as a place conducive to religious harmony. A formal letter from the Central Kalimantan administration stated that they firmly rejected the FPI and would not let them establish a chapter in the province because it "contradicts the local wisdom of the Dayak tribe that upholds peace". The letter was sent to the Minister of Coordination of Political, Legal and Security Affairs with copies being sent to the president of Indonesia, the People's Consultative Assembly speaker, the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, the Home Minister and the National Police Chief. The FPI is now banned all over the Kalimantan for its disruptive and divisive actions against local communities.
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