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Support accelerates for online petition to ban Islamic group

Opposition follows death of woman blamed on FPI

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

August 1, 2013

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Support for an online petition calling for the end of hardline Islamic Defenders Front has risen sharply since a recent clash in central Java involving the group that left one woman dead.

The campaign on has added 5,000 backers, bringing the total to about 19,000 people, just two weeks after an FPI raid on gambling and prostitution dens in Sukorejo City, Central Java, ended with a confrontation and a woman being dragged by an FPI car. She later died in hospital.

The number of people backing the online campaign calling for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to outlaw the group has climbed from just a few dozen per day to nearly 400.

“I initiated the petition to fight against the FPI’s acts, which are often violent and create social unrest,” said organizer Ratna Sarumpaet, a well-known activist, writer and actress in Indonesia. 

Sarumpaet said she had actively promoted the petition, which began in February, since the violence two weeks ago.

The FPI has enforced sharia law in parts of the country and is accused of attacking Christians. According to Wikileaks cables, the group is partly funded by the Indonesian police.

Last month, about 50 FPI members raided and damaged a shop in Makassar, South Sulawesi, for selling alcohol and in January last year, it pelted stones and rotten eggs at the home minister after he revoked some local government rules prohibiting alcohol.

Sarumapet said that FPI has no right to raid the property of others, even if prostitution is suspected.

“The FPI has disgraced the image of Indonesia and also if Islam, she said.

In response, FPI Chaiman Habib Rizieq Shihab dismissed the campaign.

“I’m sorry but the petition only has eighteen thousand signatures. This is lower than the number of those supporting the FPI,” he said.

The organization claims to have millions of members. On Facebook, it has just 5,200 ‘likes.’

Last week, Yudhoyono called on the FPI to stop acting on behalf of Islam and instructed law enforcement to take action against militant groups including the FPI.

Aqil Siradi, chairman of Indonesia’s largest Islamic group Nahdlatul Ulama, said that it was time for the government to take firm action.

“The attitude of FPI does not reflect Isalmic teaching,” he said.

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