Widodo issues decree allowing the banning of radical groups

Decree targets organizations that seek to 'undermine national stability'
Widodo issues decree allowing the banning of radical groups

A file photo of Indonesian police watching demonstrators belonging to the Islamic hard-line organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia holding a rally outside of French embassy in Jakarta. The hard-line Islamic group is believed to one of the groups targeted by a decree that bans organizations accused of promoting religious intolerance. (Photo by Bay Ismoyo/AFP)

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has signed a decree that will allow the government to ban what it thinks are extremist groups.

"The decree was signed [by the president] two days ago," coordinating minister on political, law and security affairs minister, Wiranto, told reporters on July 12.

Wiranto said the decree relates to mass organizations that seek to undermine national stability.

"Some mass organizations organize activities that are clearly against the national ideology and the constitution. This, of course, is a real threat to this nation's existence and has created conflicts in society," he said.

Wiranto was referring to hard-line Islamist groups such as Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI).

Hard-line groups have been accused of promoting growing religious intolerance in Indonesia and trying to undermine pluralism enshrined in the country's constitution.

In May the government announced its intention to ban HTI — a London based group with an estimated 40,000 members — which had been accused of trying to turn Indonesia into an Islamist state. The ban is currently awaiting court approval.

Wiranto called on people to accept the decree as, "it does not aim at putting a limit on mass organizations and harming Islamic organizations but maintaining national unity and protecting the nation's existence."

Father Guido Suprapto, executive secretary of the bishops' Commission for the Laity, backed the move.

"Both the government and society see activities organized by radical groups, including HTI, are clearly against the national ideology," he told ucanews.com.

He believed that the government should have the authority to ban any radical group.

"Of course, one thing to consider is how dangerous a radical group is," he said.

HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto denied his group has sought to establish an Islamic state.

"HTI is a group that preaches and is a legal entity. It preaches politely and peacefully and no laws are violated," he said, calling the decree arbitrary.

Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the government's decision to ban HTI "constitutes a troubling violation of universal rights of freedom of association and expression."

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"The Indonesian government is empowered to take appropriate legal action against any group, including HTI, that is suspected of violating the law," he said. "But banning any organization strictly on ideological grounds … is a draconian action that undermines rights of freedom of association and expression that Indonesians have fought hard to establish since the Suharto dictatorship."

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