A hard-line Islamic organization has apologized for causing the death of a motorist arising from its attempt to raid a suspected brothel in East Java, as the police mull citing its head for insulting the president.
, the chairman of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), said in a statement on Wednesday that his organization regretted the incident and that it had banned its members from carrying out further vigilante raids.
“The FPI remorsefully apologizes to the victims. May the deceased be accepted by Allah, and the injured be blessed with a speedy recovery,” he said as quoted by the news portal Detik.com.
The incident in question occurred last Thursday, when around 50 FPI supporters attempted to raid several “entertainment” establishments in Kendal district, Central Java. The men damaged several businesses before local residents turned on the hard-liners, forcing the FPI to beat a retreat.
As the FPI members attempted to flee the scene, one vehicle ran down a couple on a motorbike, killing the female passenger and injuring her husband.
Three FPI members, including the car’s driver, have been charged in the case.
Rizieq said the FPI would compensate the family of the deceased.
“The FPI is prepared to give a scholarship to the victim’s son until he has finished university. We will give Rp 500,000 [$50] each month,” he said.
He added that the group would also expel any of its members who engaged in acts of violence.
“FPI members are strictly prohibited from conducting raids and destroying public property, much less causing death,” Rizieq said.
The apology comes two days after Rizieq released a statement calling President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a “loser” and a “disgrace to Muslims” for chastising the FPI over the East Java incident.
On Wednesday, Gen. Timur Pradopo, the National Police chief, said his office was considering whether there were grounds to charge Rizieq over the insult.
“Our investigators are still looking into that,” he said.
Insulting the head of state was a punishable offense under the Criminal Code until 2006, when it was struck down by the Constitutional Court.
The provision has been revived in a raft of amendments currently being deliberated by the House of Representatives.
However, if passed, the article would not be retroactive.
Timur, who has courted controversy in the past by saying he welcomed vigilante groups such as the FPI helping to enforce the law, said the hard-liners would definitely face charges for their shenanigans in East Java.
“Clearly there was a legal violation there,” he said, adding that the “legal process will speak for itself.”
However, he said the police were not authorized to disband the FPI, amid mounting calls to that effect in response to the group’s raids and violent conduct throughout the country.
He added that police had reminded all mass organizations to respect the rule of law and not to take the law into their own hands for any reason.
Blow hot, blow cold
The State Palace, meanwhile, has shrugged off the insult to Yudhoyono by Rizieq, saying the invective from the hard-liners did not warrant a response.
Julian Aldrin Pasha, a spokesman for the president, said on Wednesday that Yudhoyono had other more pressing matters to address.
“Is it so important that we respond to [Rizieq’s statement]?” he said.
He added that the president would not back down from his earlier statement that the government would not tolerate the kind of vigilantism or violence exhibited by the FPI last week.
“My position is very clear — we will not give any form of tolerance,” Yudhoyono said last Sunday.
“This has to be prevented so that no other entities, including the FPI, engage in any more violence.”
Julian said this message had been impressed on law enforcers and that there would be no exceptions made for any violators, including the FPI.
“The president has instructed [law enforcement agencies] to bring in line anyone who breaks the law or commits violence,” he said.
“Our position is very clear. There must be no more organizations or individuals who commit violence against others, whether in the name of religion or any other cause.”
Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, also took a hard line on the issue when he demanded on Tuesday that the FPI be brought to justice for both the raid and the subsequent deadly clash.
“Arrest them, drag them to court and punish them if they vandalize property,” he said.
“It’s as simple as that.”
However, other officials in the Yudhoyono administration have opted to mollycoddle the hard-liners.
Suryadharma Ali, the minister for religious affairs, said he would immediately hold discussions with the FPI, and urged patience from the government and the public over the FPI’s continued antics.
“I believe we must be patient, because many local chapters of the FPI have honestly reformed,” he said on Tuesday.
“I find their recent views about the president highly regrettable, and I call on them to introspect on why the president holds the opinion of them that he does.”
He added that it would “take time” for the FPI to understand that it could not conduct raids or commit violence at will.
The Setara Institute, a watchdog for interfaith tolerance and longtime critic of the FPI over its oppression of religious minorities, said in statement on Wednesday that the hard-liners’ latest controversy had hurt the reputation of the police, given the latter’s patronage of the group and long history of overlooking its illegal actions.
“It seems the police aren’t serious about investigating the clash,” the statement said, noting that the Kendal Police had tried to paint the FPI as the victims in the case.
“The National Police leadership has repeatedly said it would prohibit and crack down on any raids carried out by mass organizations. But the reality on the ground belies this rhetoric. This reluctance by the police to act against the FPI is attributed by the public to the police’s siding with the group and fear of taking legal action against it,” Setara said.
“It is this kind of attitude from law enforcement officials that gives the FPI the idea that it is above the law, because the fact is that the FPI has long been free to perpetrate anarchy and break the law while being nurtured by the authorities.” Jakarta Globe