Jakarta’s acting governor Basuki Purnama wants the hard-line religious group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) disbanded and is asking law and human rights Minister Yasonna Laoly to seek a court ruling.
The FPI is notorious for acts of vigilantism and violence against religious minorities.
Its members have raided entertainment centres that they deem to be vice dens in Jakarta and other cities.
They protested against the appointment of Basuki, who is an ethnic Chinese and a Christian, as acting governor when Joko Widodo resigned after being elected as Indonesia’s president.
The radical group argued that a Christian should not be at the helm of Jakarta, whose population is predominantly Muslim.
The move comes as Indonesia acts to promote religious tolerance and protect the rights of religious minorities.
On Monday, religious affairs minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said that a new Bill is being drafted to allow Indonesians to follow and practise a faith of their choice.
In his letter to the law minister, Basuki, popularly known as Ahok, said the FPI often staged anarchic street rallies, spread hatred and obstructed plans to inaugurate him as Jakarta’s governor.
These acts, he added, were a breach of the Constitution.
“Such acts have caused worry and anxiety among the people and interfered with the day-to-day running of the municipal government,” he said.
The Mass Organisation Law passed in July last year gives the government the authority to break up groups that are implicated in acts of violence. The law minister must file a request to seek the court’s ruling.
“We are a democratic country. It is not proper to say someone is unfit to lead a city just because of his religion,” Umarudin Masdar, a noted member of the Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia, told The Straits Times.
Basuki is expected to be inaugurated as governor early next week, making him the first Chinese and the second Christian to lead the capital city.
On Monday, hundreds of FPI members rallied outside Jakarta’s City Hall to oppose the planned inauguration. Basuki said the protest was unconstitutional.
In a similar protest last month, FPI members pelted stones at the police and the building’s security guards.
More than 10 police officers were injured and many FPI members were arrested.
The FPI is often referred to as “preman berjubah”, or thugs in white robes.
Last year, it threatened to disrupt the finale of the Miss World pageant in Jakarta, forcing organisers to hold it in Bali, which is predominantly Hindu.
Many believe that Indonesia’s tolerance of the group over the years has led its members to act with impunity. Umarudin believes the time has come for the government to take a tough stand against groups like the FPI.
“If it happens, it will be the first time that an organisation is disbanded because of acts of violence,” Umarudin said.
Political analyst Maswadi Rauf of the University of Indonesia said Basuki has a right to do what he is doing, because he is in the right.
He dismissed any suggestion that Basuki is standing up to the FPI because his former boss, Joko, is now the president.