Protesters plan to erect 1 million tauhid flags during 212 anniversary event at Monas

Protesters gather at Jakarta’s National Monument park as part of a rally against Jakarta’s former Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on December 2, 2016. Photo: AFP
Protesters gather at Jakarta’s National Monument park as part of a rally against Jakarta’s former Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on December 2, 2016. Photo: AFP

December 2, 2016 is a date with huge significance to many of Indonesia’s Islamic organizations. Dubbed “212” in accordance with the date, it was the day when a crowd of around 500,000 people (7 million if you believe the organizers) flooded the park around the National Monument (Monas) park in Central Jakarta to protest against then-Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s alleged blasphemy against Islam.

Just like last year, the same groups behind the original 212 are holding an anniversary of the event this year (which they are calling the “212 Reunion”), and while there’s no specific politician to protest against this time, it looks like one aspect of the event will involve a show of defiance against a more recent case of perceived injustice against Islam.

Novel Bamukmin, the spokesperson for Persaudaraan 212, an umbrella group of hardline Islamic organizations that formed after the original 212 protest, said that for this year’s anniversary, organizers are planning to erect one million flags bearing the tauhid (the core of the Islamic faith, expressing belief in Allah as the one and only God) at Monas.

“We are still preparing for it. As this is a yearly agenda, we want to be truly focused so we can erect one million flags containing the sentence of the tauhid,” Novel said, as quoted by Warta Kota yesterday.

The tauhid flag has been the subject of controversy in Indonesia in recent months as the banned Islamist organization Hizbut Tahrit Indonesia (HTI) had a black flag that contained the sacred monotheistic declaration. When members of the comparatively moderate Nahdlatul Ulama youth wing burned an HTI flag in a viral video, a mass protest against the burning was held at Monas — even though the burners had already been arrested and were eventually sentenced to prison.

Rizieq Shihab — the founder of the hardline group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and a de facto leader of Persaudaraan 212 who is currently in Saudi Arabia to escape criminal charges in Indonesia — was also recently questioned by Saudi authorities after a black flag containing the tauhid (reports say it was an ISIS flag) was displayed outside his place of residence. Ironically, Rizieq called on FPI members and supporters to display tauhid flags in response to the burning, but denied that he put up the flag outside his house.

Like in Indonesia, the Hizbut Tahrir movement is banned in Saudi and many Islamic nations. It remains to be seen if the planned display of tauhid flags at the upcoming 212 anniversary could be seen as an expression of support for HTI and therefore be a violation of the group’s ban.

As for the huge logistical challenge of erecting one million flags (and the question of whether or not there will even be that many protesters), Novel is calling on all of the protesters to brings as many tauhid flags as possible to Monas.

The 212 anniversary event has reportedly been approved by the city administration and authorities. Organizers of last year’s anniversary claimed the event was attended by 7.5 million people, but the police said only 30,000 people actually showed up.

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