It’s been 20 days since Rizieq Shihab, the founder of the hardline Islamic Defender Front, was officially named a suspect by the Jakarta Police in a high-profile (and highly ironic) pornography case. Even before that, Rizieq had been hiding in Saudi Arabia to avoid police questioning in the case and has mostly had his messages to Indonesia conveyed through his lawyers (including the news that he had extended his Saudi visa and would not be returning to Indonesia in the near future).
But over the weekend Rizieq spoke to his supporters in Indonesia directly through several recordings uploaded to the official FPI Soundcloud account, including this one titled “Message from Habib Rizieq: For Indonesian Muslims and the Government of Indonesia “Reconciliation or Revolution”.
In the recording, Rizieq says he is open to reconciliation with the government, but also warned that, should the ‘criminalization’ of ulama (clerics) and Islamic activists continue, that they would have no choice but to start a revolution.
“For me in the holy land, certainly as the builder of GNPF MUI (National Movement to Defend the MUI Fatwa), I still want to promote dialogue and deliberation with more of a focus on reconciliation. However, if reconciliation fails, if the reconciliation is rejected by the party on the other side, while the ulama are constantly criminalized, activists constantly have their freedoms and human rights suppressed while Islam is also continuously marginalized, then there is no other option but to fight. The choice facing the government is reconciliation or revolution,” Rizieq said in the recording, which was released on Friday.
Rizieq and his supporters claim that there is a government conspiracy to ‘criminalize’ the FPI leader and other hardliners as revenge for having former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama jailed for blasphemy.
In the recording, Rizieq also said that he was not in Saudi Arabia to escape his legal responsibility but as “… a form of resistance against injustice, to fight against evil, against the corruption of the law by law enforcement.”
Further to his reconciliation wishes. Rizieq asked one of his most prominent supporters, constitutional law expert and former Secretary of State Yusril Ihza Mahendra, to negotiate the reconciliation with the government.
“I am ready to propose a formula for reconciliation that, Inshallah, is acceptable to both parties for the sake of the unity and integrity of the nation,” Yusril said in a press statement received CNN Indonesia on Sunday
Yusril didn’t disclose any specifics about what his side would ask for in the reconciliation, but said that it would be fair to all sides.
“I do not want one party to feel they have the upper hand and the other party to feel disturbed regarding their status and dignity,” he said.
The government has not yet issued any statement regarding the reconciliation proposal, the the idea that Rizeq would be allowed to return to Indonesia without any adverse consequences seems unlikely at this point, as the police have staked a great deal of their credibility on the case, consistently denying accusations of criminalization and evidence tampering.
However, the Jakarta Police have said they would briefly put Rizieq’s case on hold in order to focus on safety preparations for the upcoming Idul Fitri holiday. They have not announced what actions they might take to forcibly repatriate Rizieq from Saudi Arabia, but have suggested canceling his passport as a possibility.