Well it looks like the talk about fugitive Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) founder Rizieq Shihab returning to Indonesia tomorrow was, yet again, premature as police are saying that Rizieq has “canceled” his return trip to Jakarta (whether the photo of the airplane ticket that was supposed to bring him home was real or not is still undetermined).
But Rizieq’s continued evasion of Indonesian law (after being named a suspect in a high-profile pornography case in May) has led to a change in leadership in the Presidium Alumni 212, an Islamist political group named for the massive December 2, 2016, protest against Rizieq’s hated enemy, former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.
On Saturday, during a meeting to discuss Rizieq’s possible return and its impact on politics, Faisal Assegaf, one of the founders of Presidium Alumni 212, negatively compared Rizieq to Ahok. Faisal said that Ahok had been “noble” in facing the blasphemy charges against him.
“We dare to call Ahok kafir (infidel), but the facts show that the people we accuse to be kafir do not use thousands of lawyers or the masses, but their constitutional rights, their right as citizens,” Faisal said as quoted by Republika.
Faisal was of course referring to the heavily politicized blasphemy charge against Ahok that was the reason of the 212 protests as well as the former governor’s eventual election loss and imprisonment. Ahok attended every session of his blasphemy case trial during and after the gubernatorial campaign and was handed a much criticized 2-year sentence at its conclusion.
Rizieq, on the other hand, has been hiding in Saudi Arabia since he was named a pornography suspect in the infamous “baladacintarizieq” case in May. Explaining his long refusal to return to Indonesia, one of the firebrand cleric’s lawyer’s said Rizieq would rather stay in Saudi and be called a coward than return to Indonesia and get arrested.
But regardless of how accurate Faisal’s statement was, it obviously did not go over well with his fellow 212 “alumni and it was announced yesterday that he had been kicked out of the Presidium, saying they “deeply regretted” his comparison of their glorious leader and their object of hatred.
“Actually comparing the roughness of the behavior or character of Ahok with the glory of the high priest of Indonesian Muslims, Habib Rizieq Shihab, is an opinion that really has no intellectual weight, even from an ethical point of view (Ahok) is uncivilized,” Presidium 212 spokesperson Aminuddin said yesterday as quoted by Detik (yes, the 212 alumni named Rizieq high priest of all Indonesian Muslims; no, that is not actually a real thing).
While we feel sorry for anybody who is punished for speaking the truth and common sense (as happens so often in Indonesia) we can’t feel too badly for Faisal since, after all, he chose to found the Presidium – a group dedicated to the political domination of Indonesian Muslims over minority groups.
But at least he was able to, eventually, see Rizieq for what he really is. How long must the FPI leader hide in Saudi Arabia before the rest of his followers wise up as well?