Banners of Islam cleric in Jakarta prohibited

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Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel remove unauthorized banners depicting a photo and support to firebrand cleric and Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab during a patrol in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta on Friday. Kompas.com/Garry Lotulung

Jakarta Military Commander Major General Dudung Abdurachman has revealed that he had ordered his subordinates to take down banners in the city depicting Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab.

A video recently made the rounds on social media showing several people wearing Indonesian Military (TNI) uniforms and taking down banners showing images of the firebrand cleric. “The officers in uniform who took down the banners acted based on my order,” Dudung said on November 20.

The Jakarta Public Order Agency had initially taken down the banners, Dudung said, but FPI supporters later came to reinstall them, prompting the soldiers to remove them.

Indonesia had laws regulating the mechanisms for putting up banners, including stipulations on banner taxation, he said, adding that permits were not secured for the banners.

“This is a country under a rule of law so everyone must abide by the law,” Dudung said. “No one can play by their own rules and act as if they are the rightful one.”

He said the TNI would continue its operation to take down banners depicting Rizieq, as there should not be banners campaigning for a “revolution” or any other similar rhetoric.

The general warned that the cleric and his supporters that he would not hesitate to take a stern approach if they attempted to threaten the country’s unity. He also said the FPI and its leader should not think that they “represent the Islamic community”.

“It’s better for the FPI to be disbanded, if necessary,” Dudung said as quoted by kompas.com.

Rizieq has been in the spotlight since his return to Indonesia on November 10, when huge crowds of his supporters welcomed him at both Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, and the FPI headquarters in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, gathering without adhering to the Covid-19 physical distancing rule.

The controversial cleric also drew crowds of thousands when he visited an Islamic boarding school in Puncak in Bogor, West Java, and during the commemoration of Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday (Maulid) and the wedding of his daughter over last weekend in Tanah Abang, drawing ire from the public.

The Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) ordered Rizieq to pay a 50 million rupiah ($3,500) fine for violating Covid-19 protocols during the events in Jakarta. The police are currently investigating possible violations of health protocols at the events.

Those found violating the law face charges under Article 93 of Law No 6/2019 on health quarantine.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK