Faizal Assegaf would once have been considered an important ally of Rizieq Shihab, the fugitive founder of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). Faizal was one of the founders of another Islamist group, Presidium Alumni 212, made up of “alumni” of the massive December 2, 2016 protest against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy against Islam.
Rizieq was the figurehead of the 212 protest and was even declared the high priest of all Indonesian Muslims (which is not actually a thing, FYI) by the 212 alumni. But Faizal was kicked out of the Presidium this week for daring to negatively compare Rizieq, who is still a fugitive from Indonesian justice hiding in Saudi Arabia, to “noble” Ahok who faced his blasphemy charges in court.
But don’t think Faizal has lost faith in Rizieq. Despite being ousted from his position, he still sought to help the firebrand cleric by accusing current Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan of taking advantage of Rizieq just to defeat Ahok in the election.
“It is clear that Anies was only using Rizieq Shihab and Muslims in the Jakarta elections, and that suspicion has long been highlighted internal within Presidium 212,” Faizal Assegaf said in a release yesterday picked up by Tempo.
Faizal said that Anies could help Rizieq return to Indonesia safely by meeting him in Saudi Arabia, but refuses to do so.
“It is a form of betrayal to the ulema Islamic scholars and 212 elements,” Faizal wrote. He added, “Anies should have realized that without the great contributions of Rizieq Shihab, the ulema and the 212 elements, he would never be the ruler of the nation’s capital.”
Although some argued that the anti-Ahok protests were based purely on religious sentiment and were not politically motivated (as one of the judges who convicted Ahok in his blasphemy trial asserted as fact), the more time passes, the more Islamists are willing to flat-out admit that it was all about politics so that they can get what they feel is the credit they deserve for Anies’ win.
During his campaign, Anies was often criticized for his blatant attempts at wooing the support of Islamic hardliners like the FPI, such as when he was pictured speaking next to their leader Rizieq at an event in early January 2017. However, he denied allegations he was pandering to Islamists and said he wanted to be a leader that united people instead of dividing them.
Asked about Faisal’s statements regarding Anies and Rizieq’s relationship , Anies’ former campaign co-chair, Mardani Ali Sera, said yesterday that Anies still respects Rizieq and has good relations with his “FPI friends”. He also said Faizal’s statement were really about how we should all take care of each other.
There were rumors that Rizieq would return to Indonesia this Wednesday, leading hundreds of his other die hard followers to travel to Soekarno-Hatta Airport to welcome him, but he (once again) decided not to return to his homeland and face being arrested by the police as a suspect in a high-profile pornography case, among others.