FPI leaders turned back by hundreds of Dayak youth protesters in N. Kalimantan, cancel plans to open regional chapter

The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has developed from a small band of Islamist vigilantes suspected of running extortion rackets into a significant political force in Indonesia as the country increasingly embraces religious fundamentalism. But despite their growing influence, there are still certain parts of Indonesia where they are not welcome.

One of those places is the city of Tarakan in North Kalimantan. On Saturday morning, a group of FPI officials, including the organization’s vice chairperson, Ja’far Shodiq, arrived at the city’s Juwata International Airport for a visit meant to inaugurate a new FPI chapter in North Kalimantan.

However, the leaders from the hardliner Islamist organization never made it out of the airport, due to the hundreds of Dayak youth protesters that were there to meet them. The youths formed a blockade just outside the airport and held signs saying things like “Reject the formation of FPI in North Kalimantan”, “We are Muslim but we are not FPI, dissolve FPI!”

As the indigenous people of Borneo, many Dayaks are fiercely proud of their culture and, although many have converted to Islam, they have long resisted the influence of religious hardliners. Dayak leaders have specifically criticized the FPI and their leader Rizieq Shihab many times in the past for destroying Indonesian unity.

Hundreds of police and military personnel came to oversee the protest and prevent the protesters from coming inside the airport.

“The local residents have decided that FPI should not be here because they say later they will create chaos,” said Kaltara Police spokesperson Yasmin Sumitra on Saturday as quoted by Viva.

After some discussion with the police and representatives of the protesters, the FPI officials decided to cancel their plans and return to Jakarta. Following further discussion with FPI’s central board, they also cancelled plans to inaugurate the new FPI chapter altogether.

“We explained to them that, for now, it is not possible for them to carry out activities in Tarakan. The explanation we provide also concerns their safety and security, especially because in the near future we will hold Rakernas Apeksi (Working Meeting of the Association of Indonesian Municipalities). Finally they heard our explanation and accepted it,” Tarakan Police officer Riski Fara Sandhyhe told Berita Kalimantan.

Although the protesters at the airport were primarily made up of members of Dayak youth groups, Kaltara Police Chief Indrajit said that those who rejected FPI’s establishment in their city came from all walks of life.

“Many have rejected the inauguration of the FPI in North Kalimantan, not just from certain groups, but from the general public. We, as the security apparatus, are impartial towards all. We are only siding with the comfort and security of the people,” Indrajit said.

Kaltara and North Kalimantan are not the only areas of Indonesia where locals have rejected FPI. Similar incidents took place in the Central Javanese cities of Salatiga and Semarang last year after the hardliner organization attempted to open chapters only to be met by fierce opposition from protesters.

 

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