Jakarta – Islam Defenders Front (FPI) chairman Ahmad Shabri Lubis announced on Wednesday the establishment of a new mass Islamic organization, hours after the government banned the controversial hardline group and its activities.
In a written statement, Ahmad and 18 other FPI members declared the formation of the organization, which is also called the FPI, short for Front Persatuan Islam (United Islamic Front).
"For the executive boards, members and supporters of Islam Defenders Front all across Indonesia and abroad, to avoid unimportant things and feuding with this despotic regime, we hereby declare the establishment of the United Islamic Front," the statement read.
In the statement, Ahmad claimed the government's decision to ban the FPI was unconstitutional, unlawful and was an attempt to distract the public from the issue of the fatal shootings of six FPI members.
FPI deputy secretary general Azis Yanuar said the new group would not be registered with the government. However, he said the organization had clear legal standing.
"The organization's legal basis is clear, which is Constitutional Court ruling No. 82/PUU-XI/2013," he said as reported by kompas.com.
In the ruling, issued in 2014, the Court allowed mass organizations not to register with the Home Ministry. However, unregistered mass organizations would not be eligible for government services.
On Wednesday, the government issued a joint ministerial decree (SKB) signed by the home minister, the law and human rights minister, the communications and information minister, the attorney general, the National Police chief and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) head to ban the FPI and its activities.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD said the decision was made because the FPI had no legal grounds to operate as a civil organization after failing to extend its organizational registration permit (SKT) with the Home Ministry in June 2019.
Mahfud also said the group often conducted activities that disturbed public order and security.
FPI lawyer Sugito Atmo Prawiro said the FPI would file a lawsuit against the decision with the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) as soon as possible.
"I've consulted with FPI leader Rizieq Shihab, and he agreed to file a lawsuit against the decision," Sugito said.
Andalas University constitutional expert Feri Amsari said under Law No. 16/2017 on mass organizations, the ban on the FPI was legal.
However, he said the decision to disband the FPI might have violated Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution (UUD 1945), which protected the freedom of association and assembly.
"The decision could be considered a problem if viewed from a constitutional standpoint, under the 1945 Constitution," Feri said, as reported by kompas.com.
Before the passage of the 2017 law on mass organizations, the government could only disband such an organization through a court ruling.
"However, there was a setback during President Joko Widodo's first term with the passage of the law. I call it a setback because the law returned the power to disband mass organizations to the government, just as under the New Order regime," he went on to say.
The government has been at loggerheads with the FPI in recent weeks following a string of public order and security issues centered on the return of Rizieq from self-exile in Saudi Arabia.
The feud has resulted in several incidents, including the shooting of six FPI members by the National Police and the arrest of Rizieq. He was named a suspect in a health protocol violation case regarding crowded events held at his house in Petamburan, Central Java, and at his Islamic boarding school in Megamendung, Bogor, West Java, in November. (nal)