A doctor by the name of Fiera Lovita had to leave her hometown of Solok, West Sumatra, after she received threats from hardline Islamists over Facebook posts that they deemed to be “insulting” to Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab.
From May 19-21, Fiera wrote several statuses on Facebook commenting on Rizieq Shihab fleeing to Saudi Arabia to avoid questioning in his pornography case (for which he has since been named a suspect). As picked up and translated from Liputan 6, here are her posts:
“If [Rizieq’s] innocent, why run? Doesn’t he have 300 lawyers and 7 million supporters by his side? Don’t run away, bib.”
“Sometimes fanatism makes logic and common sense disappear. [Rizieq] has committed adultery, and now he’s a fugitive, yet people still praise and defend him.”
“There are still people who are saying that their lewd ulema (Rizieq) is a victim of lies. But… he has escaped. He’s not even brave enough to be questioned by police.”
Fiera’s posts, which many would argue contain harmless commentary on a hotly discussed topic on social media in Indonesia these days, angered Rizieq’s supporters in Solok, with some making threats against her online and even over the phone.
Last week, a group of people claiming to be FPI members paid Fiera a visit demanding that she apologize. Fiera eventually did so by writing a letter of apology, witnessed by the local police.
Even after that, the threats and insults against Fiera, who lived in Solok with her two young children, aged 8 and 9, didn’t stop. She eventually wrote a status on Facebook stating that, due to concerns about her family’s safety and the lack of protection they had received from the authorities, she and her family would be leaving Solok for good.
Today, Fiera and her family are finally leaving Solok and were escorted to the airport by the police and members of progressive Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). Understandably, she was not willing to reveal where they are relocating to.
“What’s certain is that now I have to calm myself down first. I have not thought about settling down or finding a new job, what’s important is I leave Solok. Calm myself down, away from those who intimidated me,” Fiera told Liputan 6 today.
The Setara Institute, a local human rights watchdog, previously pressured the local police to go after those who intimidated Fiera just for expressing her opinions. No arrests have been made so far.
Using this case as an example, the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) urged the government to watch out for “The Ahok Effect”, which is the emboldening of vigilante hardliners to carry out witch hunts on people who they deem to have insulted Islam and/or ulemas online. According to SAFEnet, there has been a rise of cases like Fiera’s or people being reported to the authorities for online defamation following the imprisonment of former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy against Islam, which itself is widely seen as a result of relentless hardline Islamic groups’ pressure on the judiciary.