The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), one of Indonesia's most controversial civil society organizations (locally referred to as mass organizations or ormas for short), has been in a state of legal limbo for over a month after its permit expired on June 20 and the hardliner group's future existence has been thrown into serious doubt after President Joko Widodo himself hinted that their dissolution is imminent.
In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press published on Saturday, Jokowi said he has less to lose in his second and final term as president so he would make decisions that would have been previously "impossible" in his first term. The president then implied that he would be in a better position to get tough on hardliner organizations, including FPI.
"If an organization endangers the nation in its ideology I won't compromise," Jokowi said in the interview.
On potentially banning FPI, Jokowi added, "Yes, of course, it's entirely possible if the government review from a security and ideological standpoint shows that they are not in line with the nation."
Were FPI to ultimately be disbanded by the government, it wouldn't be the first time a hardline Islamist organization was dissolved under President Jokowi's administration.
In 2017, the president's administration unilaterally banned the radical group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), arguing that doing so was necessary to maintain the country's security and pluralist ideologies – particularly as HTI's aim was to establish an Islamic caliphate and the organization had been linked to numerous terrorist attacks throughout Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2016 bomb attack in Jakarta.
FPI, who have been an extremely vocal part of the opposition to Jokowi's administration, denied that they are opposed to the nation's values.
"This is because Jokowi won [the recently concluded presidential election], and now he's consolidating his power, including his political power. Had Jokowi not won, there wouldn't be a problem," FPI legal department head Sugito Atmo Prawiro told Kumparan.
Sugitmo is probably right in saying that FPI wouldn't be facing an existential threat had Jokowi lost. His sole election challenger Prabowo Subianto, enjoyed voracious backing from FPI and other affiliated Islamist groups during his campaign. However, he completely lost their support after he agreed to a political reconciliation with Jokowi and his government following his defeat.
Separately, FPI spokesman Slamet Maarif said the group will continue to exist regardless of Jokowi's interview and whether or not they are able to regain their government permit.
Previously, the government rejected FPI's application to renew its ormas permit but said that the group would be allowed to function as a community rather than a legally recognized organization while inviting FPI to file another application. There have been no reports of FPI filing another application since.