Lawmakers demanded on Monday that the government crack down on a violent Islamist vigilante group that has threatened “war” against Christians in Jakarta and urged mosques to set up militia forces.
Parliamentarians from various parties held a press conference to demand the government outlaw the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) — a private militia with a self-appointed mission to protect “Islamic” values in the secular country.
“The only way to stop the FPI from creating anarchy is to ban it. The FPI is not registered as an official group,” lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle told the news conference.
“The police, military and government should be held responsible for their role in creating the FPI. Now they’re incapable in controlling it,” she added, referring to the group’s origins in a 1990s paramilitary outfit.
The FPI warned on Sunday that it was ready to wage war against Christians in the outer Jakarta suburb of Bekasi over claims of “Christianisation” of the mainly Muslim area.
After a meeting of Muslim leaders, FPI extremists urged Bekasi authorities to introduce Islamic sharia law and warned they would attack Christians with sticks, rocks and even flagpoles unless the “Christianisation” ceased.
“We won’t disturb the average Christian. But we’re against those who preach. If they try to convert Muslims to Christianity through public preaching activities, through lies and manipulation, we’ll disperse them,” FPI Jakarta branch manager Abdul Qodir Aka said.
“If they stubbornly resist we’ll use violence as a last resort,” he added.
Indonesia’s two mainstream Muslim organizations, Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, also attended Sunday’s Islamic forum in Bekasi.
Observers said communal tensions could erupt into violence in Indonesia, a constitutionally secular country of 240 million people, 90 percent of whom are Muslim.
“We cannot afford another religious conflict in our midst after working so hard this past decade to promote Indonesia as a tolerant and moderate country,” The Jakarta Globe said in an editorial.
“Bekasi is a litmus test of how the new Indonesia deals with such age-old fissures in our society,” the English-language daily said.