Jakarta – Islamist groups, numbering in their thousands, took to the streets of Jakarta on Friday (28/07) to protest a new regulation that will make it easier for the government to ban so-called "mass organizations" – including Muslim groups – accused of threatening Indonesia's national unity.
The regulation, called Perppu Ormas, was issued in the midst of a push by the government to demand stronger loyalty from mass organizations to Indonesia's state ideology Pancasila, amid fears that rising Islamist extremism may jeopardize democracy and pluralist values in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.
Backed by the regulation, the government had already disbanded a Muslim organization, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), last week over accusations it undermines Pancasila by advocating the formation of an Islamic caliphate. Despite its political stance, HTI is known as a non-violent organization.
The government's move has sparked protests and accusations, including from rights groups, that it is actually the government that is jeopardizing Indonesia's hard-won democracy and discrediting Islamist organizations.
Ex-members of HTI and members of several other Islamist groups, including the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), gathered for a protest on Friday at the Istiqlal Mosque compound in Central Jakarta. The white-clad protesters, wearing Muslim caps and robes and raising flags, later marched to the National Monument (Monas) to protest.
"We are no longer allowed to shout 'khilafah (caliphate),'" HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto told the crowd. "With this regulation, the government is not only trying to ban mass organizations, but also stifle the development of Islamic teachings."
Representatives from the Muslim groups also met with Constitutional Court officials to file requests for a judicial review on the government regulation from six Islamist groups.
President Joko Widodo signed the regulation earlier this month, after receiving backing from several moderate Muslim organizations.
The regulation drops a requirement stipulated in a law on mass organizations enacted in 2013 that makes it mandatory to bring mass groups to trial before disbanding them.
"This as a trick by the government to weaken Islamic-based organizations," an FPI sympathizer in the crowd said. "This is Islamophobia."
HTI itself filed a judicial review against the government regulation last week, with the first court hearing of the complaint held on Wednesday.
HTI is the Indonesian chapter of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has been banned in several countries. HTI has been present in Indonesia since the 1980s and has largely been a campus-based movement with well-attended meetings and rallies.
"Many of these mass organizations were already here before Indonesia existed as a republic. They fought for Indonesian independence. Will they also be banned now?" FPI spokesman Slamet Maarif said.