Indonesia Study Group
Date & time
The Jokowi Government’s recent banning of the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) is the most sweeping anti-Islamist action since the fall of Soeharto’s New Order regime in 1998. In late December 2020, the government unexpectedly announced FPI’s disbandment and shortly after arrested FPI’s spiritual leader Habib Rizieq Syihab and multiple other Front leaders following a shoot-out between police and FPI guards which left six of the latter dead. FPI’s bank accounts and social media sites have been closed, its ownership of land in Bogor challenged, and police want to charge its six dead guards. This seminar will describe and analyse the sequence of events leading to FPI’s banning. It will argue that these actions represent a significant broadening of the government’s campaign to roll back Islamism. Previous targets of the campaign were regarded as ‘transnational Islamists’, whose origins were deemed primarily foreign, whereas FPI is a traditionalist organisation whose members practice a mainstream and ‘Indonesianised’ form of Islam. In this regard, FPI’s disbandment is more political than ideological. It also demonstrates the government’s determination to more tightly control and restrict civil spaces for dissent and opposition to its policies, thereby further eroding the quality of Indonesia’s democracy. While successful in marginalising Islamist groups in the short term, this broader anti-Islamist policy complicates the dynamics of religious polarisation that have heavily influenced politics since 2014 and risks a longer-term sectarian backlash.