Rizieq Shihab’s former lawyer says 212 reunion is ‘too cruel’, plans counter-event

Protests against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Christian governor of Jakarta, 31 March 2017.  Photo: Cahaya Maulidian (Winluxhuman) / CC BY-SA 4.0
Protests against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Christian governor of Jakarta, 31 March 2017. Photo: Cahaya Maulidian (Winluxhuman) / CC BY-SA 4.0

This Sunday will mark exactly two years since the massive hardliner-led protest against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for his alleged blasphemy that took place on December 2, 2016 (which is why it is referred to as the 212 protest). Just like last year, the so-called “alumni” of the original 212 are planning to hold a reunion event at Jakarta’s National Monument, but one 212 alumni will noticeably be not taking part.

We’re not referring to firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab, the founder of the infamous Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and figurehead of the anti-Ahok protests (though he won’t be there either — he’s still hiding/stuck in Saudi Arabia). We’re talking about Rizieq’s former lawyer, Kapitra Ampera, once an influential figure amongst Islamic hardliners who recently left the opposition to join the party of President Joko Widodo, PDI-P.

Kapitra, accompanied by the heads of several Islamic boarding schools in Jakarta, submitted a request to the Jakarta Police yesterday to hold a counter event to the 212 Grand Reunion on Sunday,

The PDI-P candidate said his counter-event would be called “Contemplation Act 212 and Enlightenment of the Nation’s Children” and would be held at the same place and time as the main 212 reunion.

Kapitra said he felt the need to organize the counter-event because he thought that “Aksi 212” had deviated too far from the context and teachings of the glory of Islam. According to him, the 212 Grand Reunion was nothing more than an event to celebrate the crimes of a person who is currently serving his sentence for that crime.

“That for us is too cruel. It makes it seem like Islam is filled with revenge and anger,” Kapitra said at Jakarta Police Headquarters as quoted by Tempo.

Many believe the anti-Ahok protests, particularly the original 212, were essential in pressuring authorities into prosecuting Ahok on trumped-up charges of blasphemy, leading to his loss in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election as well as his guilty verdict and two-year prison sentence (he’s expected to be released in January). Many involved in organizing the original 212 have since admitted that the protests were politically motivated.

Kapitra’s statements may indeed also be politically motivated, considering his current party alliance (there are indications that Ahok may join PDI-P after he is released from prison though a party officials say anybody, even Rizieq, is welcome to join them). But it seems like Rizieq’s ex-lawyer may be motivated by empathy as well.

“How do the family and children of (Ahok) feel, that every year their father’s crime is celebrated? Doesn’t Islam teach us to be forgiving?” asked Kapitra.

The 212 Grand Reunion’s organizers claim that millions will be coming to attend the anniversary event this Sunday and that they’ll be planting 1 million tauhid flags as part of the festivities. The 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.

Police clearly are not expecting millions to show up on Sunday, saying that only a small-scale security detail made up of officers from the Gambir sub-district station have been assigned to handle the event.


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