Widodo to disband Islamist group 

Indonesia’s security minister says an extremist Islamist group that seeks a global caliphate of Muslim nations under strict Shariah law and organised the giant blasphemy protests in Jakarta will be disbanded.

Wiranto said Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) was being shut down by order of President Joko Widodo.

Wiranto said the “activities of HTI are strongly indicated to be running against Pancasila and the constitution”.

Pancasila is Indonesia’s ill-defined state ideology, which includes belief in God, the unity of the country, social justice and democracy and which enshrines religious diversity in a secular system.

Jakarta was shaken by six months of huge Islamic protests against the ethnically Chinese, Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, who is accused of blasphemy against the Koran.

A verdict is due today (Tuesday) in the trial that is widely seen as a test of Indonesia’s religious tolerance.

Wiranto said HTI’s activities “have clearly caused conflict in society” and the dissolution of the group would be enforced by the courts.

The ban comes amid concern over the rising influence of Islamist groups in the diverse archipelago, which has sizeable Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and traditional religious communities.

Hizbut is active in numerous countries, despite being banned in some Arab and Central Asian countries for trying to persuade citizens to overthrow secular governments.

The group said it deeply regretted Widodo’s decision, adding that it had been conducting religious activities in the archipelago for more than two decades.

Islamist vigilante groups, banned under the dictatorial rule of former president Suharto, which ended in 1998, have expanded in recent years.

HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto posted on the group’s website: “We operate legally, orderly, peacefully and almost never caused any legal problems. HTI will take the needed steps to reject its dissolution.”

The group does not have a reported record of violence in Indonesia but the banning order was defended by mainstream Muslim organisations and some rights groups.

Said Aqil Siraj, chairman of Nahdhatul Ulama, the archipelago’s largest Muslim group, said it supported the government’s “firm action” against HTI.

Hendardi, a founder of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said Hizbut’s ideology had “massively and systematically penetrated our society through campuses and religious assemblies”.

It was a threat to Indonesian religious diversity and democracy, said Hendardi.

Indonesian police at a Jakarta protest last November. Picture credit: Wikimedia