There had been talk that the fugitive founder of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Rizieq Shihab, would be flying back to Indonesia from his hiding place of Saudi Arabia this morning since photos supposedly showing his return ticket to Jakarta were posted online. But police and other government officials quashed those rumors yesterday, saying that the firebrand cleric and pornography suspect had already cancelled his supposed homecoming trip.
Despite that, plus all the numerous instances when Rizieq or his lawyers said the hardline leader would return to Indonesia soon before he decided not to, hundred of his most die-hard followers reportedly came out this morning to eagerly await his glorious homecoming.
They were, of course, severely disappointed.
Government officials had already confidently stated that Rizieq was not flying back to Indonesia today and thus they had decided not to prepare a law enforcement team to immediately arrest him upon his arrival or secure the airport from his followers, (who had previously promised to bring “millions” out to Soekarno-Hatta to defend him from being unjustly apprehended).
But officials from FPI and Persaudaraan Alumni 212 (another hardliner Islamist group made up of “alumni” of the December 2, 2016 protest against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama) continued the charade of saying that Rizieq might yet return and organizing a “welcoming committee” for the FPI leader, including a car with the custom license plate B 1 FPI. So police were still forced to deploy thousands of personnel to the airport just in case they caused an incident.
It was Rizieq himself, speaking via speaker phone at Baitul Amal Mosque in Cengkareng (located near the airport) where his followers had amassed there this morning, who confirmed what the rest of us already knew – that he wasn’t coming back to Indonesia today. He said that both his spiritual teacher in Saudi Arabia and his prayers had led him to his decision.
“Therefore, I ask all Muslims to pray for me and my family, to pray to God, to ask God that my family and I were allowed by God to return to safely to our country and achieve victory for all Muslims,” he said as quoted by Detik.
Rizieq said he really, really wanted to come home because of all of the threats facing Indonesia, including the continuing criminalization of ulema (Islamic scholars) such as himself. He also mentioned the judicial review recently filed by Ahok against his controversial blasphemy conviction (the trial at which Rizieq was called as an “expert witness”) as another dire matter in need of his attention.
The FPI founder finished his phone call by promising to inform his followers himself, via social media, when he would really be returning to Indonesia and apologized to those who had come out to meet him this morning.
Rizieq’s words were not enough to placate some of his followers, leading to more infighting among his faithful. Persaudaraan Alumni 212 was criticized by Aminuddin, a spokesperson for Presidium 212 (another rival 212 alumni group) for carrying on with the welcoming committee and demanded that they apologize to all of Rizieq’s followers who made the trek out to Cengkareng for his alleged arrival.
“They must promise to no longer make [Rizieq] an object of speculation that can damage the faith of the people. Because of this incident their faith in the ulema will increasingly disappear, especially those who are members of Persaudaraan Alumni 212,” Aminuddin said, adding that the funds spent on the endeavor also needed to be shown transparently.
The Presidium spokesperson’s words come just two days after it was announced that one of the Presidium’s founder had been kicked out of the organization for daring to say that Rizieq should learn from “noble” Ahok and face his charges honorably in court instead of hiding and using the masses to protect him.
Rizieq has been hiding in Saudi Arabia since he was named a pornography suspect in the infamous “baladacintarizieq” pornography case in May. Explaining his long refusal to return to Indonesia, one of the firebrand cleric’s lawyer’s once said Rizieq would rather stay in Saudi and be called a coward than return to Indonesia and get arrested.