Jakarta – Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko has asserted that the government is not hampering firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab from returning home to Indonesia from his self-exile in Saudi Arabia, adding that he was free to 'go home' if he wanted to.
"What's the problem? There is no more problem [for him to come back]," Moeldoko said at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.
Rizieq, who is also the leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), a hard-line group with a controversial track record, left for Saudi Arabia in 2017 to go on umrah (minor haj) and has remained there ever since.
Prior to his leaving Indonesia, Rizieq, who is also a staunch critic of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, was charged in connection with a pornography case and for insulting Pancasila.
The police dropped both charges last year but he apparently chose to remain in Mecca despite his visa having expired in July 2018.
Recently, Isfah Abidal Azis, a deputy secretary-general of the executive board of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said in a video that made the rounds on social media that Rizieq had the right to return home.
"Based on ukhuwah islamiyah, namely Islamic brotherhood, we thought that our brother [Rizieq] deserves the right to come back, to return to Indonesia," Isfah said in the video.
Moeldoko said that Rizieq was free to come back to the country now if he wished to do so. "If he wants to come home, just come home. It's as simple as that," he said.
Losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, who is now the country's defense minister, promised during his election campaign that if he won he would help Rizieq return to Indonesia.
The spokesman of the 212 Alumni Association, Novel Bamukmin, said on Monday that he had given Prabowo – whom the 212 activists supported during the election – 100 days to bring Rizieq back to Indonesia, tribunnews.com reported. (nal)