JAKARTA - Hundreds of protestors attacked the offices of Indonesian Home Ministry in Jakarta on Thursday, pressing the government to ban alcohol countrywide and to turn the country into an Islamic state.
Indonesian Islamists stormed the Home Ministry complex in Jakarta and wreaked havoc inside
Indonesia is a secular state with no official religion. It is the most populous Muslim nation in terms of population, and most of its citizens are moderates. Radical Muslim groups however, have in recent years formed syndicates to raid bars, nightclubs and the office of Indonesia’s Playboy magazine.
Around 500 angry protesters, including members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Islamic Peoples Forum (FUI), stormed government office complex in Jakarta to protest a proposal to revoke anti-alcohol rules, damaging a security post, carpark and glass panels before threatening to conduct sweeps on bars and beat up customers, Indonesian news agency Kompas reported on Thursday.
Indonesia has bylaws that regulate the sale of alcohol in the country. Under the regulations, alcohol is classified into three categories: A (with an alcohol content of 5% or less), B (above 5% to 20%) and C (above 20% to 55%). The sale of alcohol classified as B and C is limited only to places such as hotels and restaurants, while alcohol classified as A, such as beer, is being sold anywhere.
The new proposal to cancel the bylaw will allow sales of Class B and C alcoholic drinks elsewhere.
Indonesian radical group FPI, guess who on the screen.
Protesters outside the interior ministry in the city’s main square wore white robes with the word “mujahideen” emblazoned on their shirts. “President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must issue a decree to ban alcohol and to cut alcohol distribution in Indonesia to zero percent,” said FPI field coordinator Awit Mashuri.
“We will defend anti-alcohol bylaws and we will fight anything that is against the interests of Islam in Indonesia to make it a pure Islamic state,” Zulfi Syukur told the cheering crowd, many of whom pumped their fists in the air and shouted “jihad”, or holy war.
Indonesia Home Ministry complex - aftermath
FPI wants to transform Indonesia into an Islamic state with Sharia as its legislature. The group has launched a series of violent vigilante attacks since 2000, with targets including the US embassy and nightclubs.
The Indonesia Home Ministry responded angrily to the attack, Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said the ministry would evaluate both the the FPI and the FUI. If necessary, we will freeze them, he said. The Constitution may respect the right of these groups to exist, he said, but they need to obey the law. We have decided to take two courses of action, Gamawan said.
Though it is questionable whether any action will really be taken against the FPI. The Muslim organization is believed to have the backing of both the National Police and the military. The group’s growing aggressiveness is worrisome to human rights groups, who say that the Islamist organization is nothing more than a collection of nearly uncontrollable thugs.
Critics say President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s attitude was reflected in the Oct. 7, 2010 appointment of Timur Pradopo, who has strong ties to FPI, as national police chief. Based on a Wikileaks report in the leaked US diplomatic cables, it was claimed the FPI receives funding from the police.
The FPI has often resorted to violence, ransacking bars, threatening pork sellers and attacking peaceful demonstrations. It has also tried to prevent Christian churches from being built in communities near Jakarta.
Indonesia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the country has struggled to deal with a radical fringe of extremists who have carried out numerous attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
Transforming Indonesia into an Islamic state however, may prove challenging. Since its inception in 1945, Indonesia has been guided by a nationalist philosophical construct known as the Pancasila rather than a state religion. Any establishment of Shariah-inspired state may risk the secession of almost the entire Eastern Indonesia, most of them Christian-majority, and the famed island of Bali, which is 92% Hindu. Ethnic and religious tensions had resulted in the separation of East Timor into an independent country in 1999, and Indonesia currently has active secessionist movements in both Christian Maluku and West Papua.