Anti-Ahok 212 ‘alumni’ group split over internal bickering regarding Presidium name chance

Protesters gather at Jakarta’s National Monument park as part of a rally against Jakarta’s former Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on December 2, 2016. Photo: AFP
Protesters gather at Jakarta’s National Monument park as part of a rally against Jakarta’s former Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on December 2, 2016. Photo: AFP

Presidium Alumni 212, a union of Islamic hardline groups which formed after the December 2, 2016 mass protest against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama (yes, apparently people attending a one-day protest can be considered “alumni”), seems to have gradually gained political power ever since it played a major role in Ahok’s blasphemy conviction and defeat in the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

In fact, the group recently showed its political muscle, showing no qualms about calling out Governor Anies Baswedan — who, arguably, stood to gain the most from the alumni’s anti-Ahok movement — for not giving Presidium Alumni 212 the respect they think they deserve since they say they were instrumental in getting Anies into office.

However, cracks have grown inside the group, pretty much splitting it into two. The cause? Petty internal bickering over a name change.

During Presidium Alumni 212’s national meeting in Bogor on January 25-27, the group’s leader and Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) spokesman Slamet Ma’arif officially changed their name to the less communist-sounding Persaudaraan Alumni 212 (“Persaudaraan” meaning brotherhood/sisterhood).

Although officials mentioned changing the name to make it sound more “egalitarian”, we think it might actually be because they finally figured out that the term Presidium is used almost exclusively by communist governments (and we know how Indonesia’s Islamic hardliners feel about communists…).

But it turned out that not everybody was down with the new name, as a faction consisting of members who want to keep the name Presidium have broken off and even elected their own leader, Habib Umar Al Hamid.

“Presidium Alumni 212 never decided to change its name,” said the Presidium faction’s spokesman, Aminudin, as quoted by Tempo yesterday.

Eggi Sudjana, who sits on Persaudaraan’s executive council and is perhaps best known as a lawyer for FPI douner Rizieq Shihab, the man both Presidium and Persaudaraan revere and have appointed the “Grand Imam” for all of Indonesia on our behalf (and who is currently a fugitive in Saudi Arabia due to a pornography investigation), said that Persaudaraan has Rizieq’s blessing and is the only legally recognized group.

In response, Presidium said they want to hold a mediation session in Saudi Arabia involving the most respected Islamic scholars (including Rizieq) to figure out the name issue, the outcome of which will be named the “Mecca Declaration”.

Whatever the outcome of this dispute is, Presidium and Persaudaraan best get their act together since it’s very likely that they will be used as a powerful political tool in the 2018 nationwide regional elections and the 2019 presidential election.

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