Despite the ridicule he received over the “Fitsa Hats” incident, former secretary general for the Jakarta chapter of Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Habib Novel Bamukmin, has remained one of the most vocal members of the hardline group, becoming a de facto spokesperson who consistently delivered controversial statements publicly.
Surprisingly, Novel’s days among the leadership of the FPI has come to an abrupt end as the organization yesterday confirmed rumors that he has been demoted in large part due to his unchecked tendency to speak in public without FPI’s approval.
Recently, Erwin Moeslimin, a politician for the PDI-P party (for which President Joko Widodo is a cadre) met with FPI leader Rizieq Shihab in Saudi Arabia, where the latter is taking refuge from the highly ironic pornography charges waiting for him at home.
After the meeting became known among the local media, Novel, who was not present in Saudi, was asked to give it context. Novel said that Rizieq, through Erwin as a messenger for Jokowi and PDI-P, demanded that PDI-P be cleansed of communists within the party’s ranks and that they revise anti-Islam policies, among others.
Novel’s claims were rebuffed by Erwin himself, who said that his meeting with Rizieq was amicable and did not touch on any of the things Novel suggested.
“As far as I know, Novel Bamukmin has been fired by the FPI. He’s not even in contact with Rizieq,” Erwin said yesterday, as quoted by Detik.
Following that bombshell, Novel denied that he had been fired and that he is still a member of the FPI.
“If I was fired by the FPI, please present proof for it,” he said today, as quoted by Detik.
Well, Novel may not have been officially fired, but there is proof that he was demoted from the ranks of the FPI leadership, as confirmed by a high-ranking FPI member today.
“[Novel was demoted] because he constantly made comments without coordination [with the leadership]. Sometimes he made comments even though it hasn’t been discussed in the organization, leading to differences in perception. He also took steps that have not been approved by the organization,” said Muchsin Alatas, member of the FPI Religious Council, as quoted by Detik.
Muchsin added that Novel is now merely a “sympathizer” of the FPI.
“So if he makes a statement in the name of FPI, he doesn’t have the competency to do that,” he said.
Novel shot to meme stardom in January 2017 when he testified against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in his blasphemy trial. Ahok then pointed out a discrepancy in the official court documents detailing Novel’s personal details, in which the latter wrote down that he worked at “Fitsa Hats” presumably out of embarrassment that he worked for US-based restaurant chain Pizza Huts.
Since then, Novel has not shied away from making controversial statements in public. Perhaps one of the most controversial comments he made recently was his criticism of Ma’ruf Amin, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), for accepting an apology from Sukmawati Soekarnoputri over the recent controversy surrounding her allegedly blasphemous poem.
“If religion is insulted, then it is God’s right, we have no right to give forgiveness to Sukmawati because it is not something people can do,” Novel said.