Since he became a fugitive from Indonesian justice 10 months ago after being named a suspect in a high-profile pornography case, every few months there have been announcements that Rizieq Shihab, the founder of the the infamous Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), would leave his hiding place of Saudi Arabia and return to Jakarta in the near future. Those announcements never came true, but a recent viral photo supposedly showing a ticket for Rizieq’s return flight to Jakarta on Wednesday has led to renewed discussion about what would happen if Rizieq were actually to return to Indonesia.
Rizieq and his legal team have always maintained that the pornography case against him was engineered by his political enemies and have often said he would only return to Indonesia if the case was dropped. But one of the leaders of Presidium Alumni 212 (a hardliner Islamist political group made up of ‘alumni’ of the massive December 2, 2016 protest against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama that was officiated by Rizieq) says that the FPI founder should follow the example of his bitter enemy Ahok and face the law honorably.
“The noble soul of Ahok must be imitated by Habib Rizieq, sometimes we take lessons from our enemies,” said Faisal Assegaf, one of the founders of Presidium Alumni 212, at a discussion on Saturday titled, ‘The arrival of Habib Rizieq and Potential Uproar in this Political Year’ in Jakarta on Saturday as quoted by Republika.
Faisal was of course referring to the heavily politicized blasphemy charge against Ahok that was the reason of the 212 protests as well as the former governor’s eventual election loss and imprisonment. Ahok attended every session of his blasphemy case trial during and after the gubernatorial campaign and was handed a much criticized 2-year sentence at its conclusion.
Rizieq, on the other hand, has been hiding in Saudi Arabia since he was named a pornography suspect in the infamous “baladacintarizieq” case in May. Explaining his long refusal to return to Indonesia, one of the firebrand cleric’s lawyer’s said Rizieq would rather stay in Saudi and be called a coward than return to Indonesia and get arrested.
At the discussion on Rizieq’s potential return, Presidium Alumni 212’s Faisal argued that it was essential that a cleric never rely on the power of the masses and that ulema (scholars) who are sincere in their devotion do not rely on lawyers but on faith in what they believe.
“We dare to call Ahok kafir (infidel), but the facts show that the people we accuse to be kafir do not use thousands of lawyers or the masses, but their constitutional rights, their right as citizens,” Faisal said.
Previously, FPI leaders had said that “millions” of Rizieq’s followers would flood Soekarno-Hatta Airport to make sure their leader was safe from arrest should he return.
Faisal also said that Rizieq would definitely return to Indonesia should he be asked by current Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, implying that Anies owed Rizieq since he won in large part due to the 212 protest movement and thus should guarantee his safe return.
Police apparently think there is enough of a chance that the FPI leader might really return this time (unlike the many, many other times he was said to be coming back) as authorities have apparently called for a special tele-conference of police chiefs from across the country on how to handle it.