Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – The hashtag #JokowiTakutFPI (#JokowiAfraidofFPI) has been trending nationwide since Thursday morning, following comments from Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi that suggested controversial mass organization Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) would have its permit renewed.
The permit for the FPI – a hard-line group notorious for religiously motivated violence – expired in June. Government officials had previously cast doubt on the group's chances to get it renewed.
Presidential chief of staff Moeldoko said in July that the FPI should try to develop "other ideologies" and remove the term "caliphate" from its articles of association.
But recently, the government seems to have reversed its position. Fachrul said the FPI participated "in advancing the country", echoing former home affairs minister Gamawan Fauzi, who once called the FPI "an asset to the nation."
"I support FPI getting a permit extension," Fachrul said in a discussion with Islamic mass organization leaders on Wednesday, as quoted by the Religious Affairs Ministry website.
The comments have been met with confusion and disappointment from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo supporters online, who have expressed their feelings with the hashtag #JokowiTakutFPI.
One Twitter user, @b3811nez, posted a gif of Pinocchio in reference to a Tempo Magazine cover that compared the President to the fairy-tale character.
Twitter user @DimasPermana817 disputed Fachrul's claim that the FPI helped "advance the nation" and tweeted a photograph of the group's articles of association, which state that the FPI's vision and mission is to "uphold Islamic sharia" under a "khilafah nubuwwah [prophetic caliphate]".
@radenano quoted a tweet Jokowi posted in October, calling on the public to "wage war on radicalism and terrorism."
"Hah, nonsense," @radenano tweeted in a combination of Javanese and Indonesian. "You're scared of ormas [mass organizations] but you claim that you want to eradicate radicalism. In your dreams!"
The Jokowi administration has mounted a campaign against "radicalism" in recent weeks. The President signed a government regulation on preventing acts of terrorism while 11 ministries and state bodies issued a joint decree regarding radicalism among civil servants.
Jokowi himself has had an antagonistic relationship with the FPI since his campaign to become Jakarta governor in 2012, when the FPI supported his then-rival Fauzi Bowo and regularly protested against his Chinese-Indonesian, Christian deputy Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.
The FPI has been one of the most outspoken critics of the government since Jokowi won the presidency in 2014 and it was one of the main organizers of the massive anti-Ahok rallies in 2016 and 2017 that eventually led to the then-Jakarta governor's trial and conviction for blasphemy.
The President himself had previously hinted he might refuse to extent the FPI's permit, saying his administration would not "compromise" if an organization threatened the nation or the state ideology, Pancasila.
In an interview with the Associated Press in July, Jokowi said it was "entirely possible" that the FPI would be banned, especially if the government saw that "from a security and ideological standpoint", they were "not in line with the nation".
FPI first came to prominence in the early 2000s when it conducted "sweeps" against businesses that it thought promoted vice such as bars and night clubs. It has also been involved in violence against minority religious groups as well as those it considers "pro-communist".