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Controversial Islamic preacher Felix Siauw has sermon at Jakarta City Hall canceled, then uncanceled

Coconuts Jakarta - June 26, 2019

Although Indonesia is not a Muslim state, many state institutions have their own mosques for the convenience of Muslim civil servants. The teachings at these mosques have been under scrutiny after a report last year by the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) found that dozens of the houses of worship were spreading radicalism to government workers.

Which brings us to Felix Siauw. The celebrity Islamic preacher, who has around 3 million followers on Twitter and who infamously came under fire a few years ago for suggesting that taking selfies is a sin, was scheduled to give a sermon today at the Fatahillah Mosque located in Jakarta's City Hall complex. Yesterday, city hall officials said his sermon had been canceled following an uproar on social media, only for Felix to give the sermon as scheduled after all.

Felix, a Chinese-Indonesian who converted from Catholicism to Islam, is known for having openly supported the now-banned organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) and HTI's goal of transforming Indonesia into an Islamic caliphate state based on sharia law.

When it was announced that Felix would be giving a lecture at the City Hall mosque, many netizens were angered at the news, seeing it as a government endorsement of the banned ideology of HTI.

News broke late yesterday featuring several officials from City Hall saying that Felix's sermon had been canceled. None of the officials would say if it was due to the controversy regarding the preacher's connection to HTI, but one official said that it would simply be rescheduled for another day.

But in the end, Felix did deliver his sermon at the City Hall mosque as scheduled today, right after midday prayers.

Addressing the supposed cancellation of his sermon afterward, Felix said that nobody had directly communicated with him about it so he gave it as scheduled.

"So far, communication [about the cancellation] was not given, just judgement from one side to the other. We hope that, Alhamdulillah, City Hall will remain open and not make problems so that our studies can continue to be carried out," he said this afternoon as quoted by Detik.

One of the City Hall officials who had previously said that Felix's sermon would be rescheduled told the media that they had considered changing the date for fear Felix's sermon would clash with that of other invited speakers, but, in the end, there were no scheduling conflicts so he was able to give his sermon as originally planned.

On top of angering netizens who objected to Felix's radicalist leanings, his sermon at City Hall was also met with anger by members of Banser, the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's (and the world's) largest Islamic organization by membership. NU generally supports a more moderate and syncretic form of Islam, which placed it in direct opposition to HTI.

Soon after word broke that Felix was still giving his sermon at City Hall, a convoy of around 50 Banser members arrived at City Hall to voice their protest.

"The Jakarta Government has made public lies, they have repeatedly invited figures from HTI," said one of the Banser speakers as quoted by Detik.

Two weeks ago, the Jakarta Government also faced controversy after it was revealed that a group called Muslimah HTI (Muslim Women of HTI) had been included among a number of women's groups that had been invited to speak with officials from the Jakarta Office of the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Agency. A government official said the invitation to the HTI woman's group had been a "mistake" and it was canceled.

President Joko Widodo's administration unilaterally banned (HTI) in 2017, arguing that doing so was necessary to maintain the country's security and pluralist ideologies, In addition to HTI's goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate, the organization had also been linked to numerous terrorist attacks throughout Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2016 bomb attack in Jakarta.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/controversial-islamic-preacher-felix-siauw-has-sermon-at-jakarta-city-hall-cancelled-then-uncancelled/