Mass organization Laskar Bali apologizes for intimidating radical Muslim preacher in town for lecture

Left: The Laskar Bali flag. Right: Ustadz Abdul Somad/Wikimedia Commons
Left: The Laskar Bali flag. Right: Ustadz Abdul Somad/Wikimedia Commons

Laskar Bali, one of Bali’s biggest so-called mass organizations — a loose term for the country’s numerous civil society groups, many of which have been accused of thuggish behavior — has had to apologize after intimidating an Indonesian Muslim preacher, notorious for his extremist views.

Ustadz Abdul Somad had been scheduled to speak in Denpasar, Bali, this past Saturday.

But prior to his speaking engagement, it’s alleged that five or six members from different mass organizations, including Laskar Bali, armed with knives stormed his hotel on Dec. 8 to demand that he not do his lecture. The whole reason is that it was apparently believed that the speech, given in Hindu-majority Bali, would be too radical and full of anti-Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) sentiments, divisive to the multi-cultural nation. Though Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, the country has six officially recognized religions. 

Indonesian National Police say they have handed the harassment case over to provincial-level Bali Police.

Somad’s attorney, M. Kapitra Ampera said on Tuesday that his client will be pressing charges against his harassers, who he claims are guilty of sedition, slander, blasphemy, violence, and death threats.

The preacher came to Bali on invitation from local Muslims in the community and he is not anti-NKRI, contrary to allegations from Balinese organizations, said Kapitra.

Since the incident, Laskar Bali has issued an apology for its treatment of the Sumatra-born preacher and distanced itself from another Bali organization, Komponen Rakyat Bali (KRB), who they claim was responsible for stirring the pot with Somad in the first place .

Secretary General of Laskar Bali, I Ketut Ismaya apologized to “the Muslims of Indonesia” and the people of Riau for the incident involving Somad in Denpasar on Dec. 8.

Ismaya said Laskar decided to try and prevent Somad from speaking after representatives from KRB claimed that there was a link between Somad and Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group banned in Indonesia for wanting to establish a caliphate.

For that reason, Ismaya said he wanted to confirm that Somad was not anti-NKRI and to make him pledge his allegiance to NKRI, kiss the Merah Putih, the national flag of Indonesia, and sing Indonesia Raya, the national anthem.

“I immediately thought that meant Ustadz Somad is anti-NKRI. I decided to go to (his hotel) to directly confirm this,” VIVA quoted Ismaya as saying.

But Ismaya says it was found out that Somad is not anti-NKRI and now Laskar Bali has admitted remorse. 

“I submit my apology at this time to Ustadz Somad. We did not know Ustaz is pro NKRI. We are ready to support and protect him,” Ismaya said in his apology.

Ismaya denied carrying any bladed weapons during the event.

“I also must clarify I had no weapons. That was only a command stick,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Indonesia as the world’s most populous nation instead of as the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Big thanks to an eagle-eyed reader for catching the mistake. 

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