Habib Bahar Smith says he’d rather rot in prison than apologize for Jokowi ‘banci’ comment

Habib Bahar Smith. Photo: Instagram
Habib Bahar Smith. Photo: Instagram

Despite facing possible criminal charges for committing hate speech against Indonesia’s head of state, firebrand cleric Habib Bahar bin Ali bin Smith, popularly known as Habib Bahas Smith or Habib Bule, remained defiant and says he will not apologize for his controversial comments about President Joko Widodo.

After he was reported to the Jakarta Metro Police last week for calling Jokowi “banci” (a derogatory Indonesian term for transgender women) during a recent sermon, Smith did not back down in the slightest when discussing his remarks on Saturday.

“I said Jokowi is a banci president because once during a mass protest millions of Muslims went to the Presidential Palace to meet with him and ask for justice. He, as a president, instead ran away from his responsibilities and focused on another unimportant task and neglected the millions of Muslims who want to see him,” Smith told Detik.

Smith was referring to the 411 protest on November 4, 2016, which served as a precursor to the infamous “212” protest against former Jakarta Govenor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama calling for his imprisonment for blasphemy against Islam. Jokowi did not meet the protesters during 411, but he did take part in a prayer together with protesters during 212.

Smith went on to repeat what he said during his controversial sermon when he blamed Jokowi for the injustices and inequality suffered by “native” Indonesians.

“The people are suffering. They’re thirsty and hungry. The Chinese, westerners, foreign companies are the ones who are prospering. We pribumi (a loosely-defined term for native Indonesians) in Indonesia are slaves in our own country,” he said.

“If they force me to apologize then by Allah it’s better that I rot in prison than apologize.”

The National Police on Saturday placed Smith on their travel prohibition list — an almost certain sign that he will be named a criminal suspect soon.

In additional to potentially facing charges of violating Indonesia’s draconian Law on Electronic Transactions and Information (UU ITE) — specifically its prohibitions on online hate speech and defamation — Habib Bahar Smith could also face charges of insulting the president, which is a separate and serious criminal offense — early this year a teenager was sentenced to 18 months in prison for insulting President Jokowi on Facebook.

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