Woman's death sparks outcry over hardline group

Calls for the government to dissolve the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) grow louder after an FPI vehicle speeding from a vice raid strikes and kills an elementary school teacher.

By Yenny Herawati and Okky Feliantiar for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

August 08, 2013
Reset Text smaller larger

Ramadan this year was a trying time for the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a vigilante group known for its raids on restaurants, bars and other businesses deemed to be non-compliant with Islamic norms. Recent incidents have stirred up public anger over the group's activities, forcing the FPI to apologize.

  • Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) demand a spa in Mojokerto, East Java be shut down during Ramadan, on July 6th. Anger at the group has crescendoed after an FPI vehicle struck and killed a woman July 18th, after a vice raid in Central Java. [Saipul/AFP]

    Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) demand a spa in Mojokerto, East Java be shut down during Ramadan, on July 6th. Anger at the group has crescendoed after an FPI vehicle struck and killed a woman July 18th, after a vice raid in Central Java. [Saipul/AFP]

Related Articles

Among those angry with the vigilantes are local residents of Kendal, a regency in Central Java. A female primary school teacher, Tri Munarti, died there on July 18th when a truck driven by FPI rioters ploughed into a motorcycle on which she was a passenger.

H Muryono, head of education in the district, said the death was a huge loss. "I have lost the best teacher of Kendal Regency," Tribunnews quoted him as saying.

Prominent Indonesians are calling for the FPI to be disbanded after Ramadan raids in Central Java sparked a riot, and an FPI vehicle speeding away from the melee struck and killed a woman.

The incident happened at midday, after FPI members launched a raid in the locality of Sukorejo. Area residents, some armed with clubs and pieces of wood, gathered to prevent it and a clash soon ensued.

As a convoy of FPI vehicles tried to flee the area, one struck the motorcycle the teacher was riding, killing her and injuring four other people. Enraged residents burned the vehicle, and local police evacuated FPI members from the area.

Hundreds of Kendal residents staged a protest rally July 23rd to mourn the death. Many carried posters with sentiments such as "I am a Muslim, but I am not FPI".

"We're demanding that FPI should be disbanded because they are being arrogant and vigilantes," co-ordinator Erwin Pasule shouted.

"The only way to stop FPI is through law enforcement," Kendal cleric Zainal Maturi told Khabar. "FPI must listen to the call from our government. Islam is teaching us to be respectful and to follow our leaders. As such, FPI should follow the command from the Indonesian government to stop their action as 'community police.'"

FPI on the defensive

On July 24th, FPI chairman Habib Rizieq Shihab publicly apologized to Tri Munarti's family in the presence of her husband Samsu Eko Julianto, who was driving the motorcycle when it was struck. He was also injured.

"We regret this happened and apologize for the loss and for those who are injured," Rizieq said. He pledged financial compensation for the family and promised that any FPI members involved in the violence in Kendal would be dismissed from the organisation and face legal charges.

But the apology failed to calm public outrage.

"I could never understand why Indonesia is so afraid of FPI. They are very aggressive and abusive. And they do not have appreciation or respect for any differences in the community. This organisation should be banned," said Sukmanto, a 26 year-old student from Kendal.

Religious authorities condemn raids

The public outcry is not confined to Kendal, however. Calls to rein in the FPI are coming from lawmakers, religious leaders, activists and regular citizens, who demand stricter law enforcement against vigilantes.

"We urge the government to disband the group, which engaged in numerous incidents of vandalism and showed deplorable attitude," Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), of the FPI.

"Their behaviour does not reflect Islamic teaching," he said in South Jakarta on July 28th.

Just prior to Ramadan, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and the NU called on all community groups to refrain from violent vice raids, and many Muslim groups pledged to do so.

Melanie Liemena Suharly, deputy speaker of the People's Consultative Council (MPR), said she was lobbying for leaders of the NU and Muhammadiyah to recommend President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) dissolve the organisation.

"I will propose to the Assembly leadership to immediately communicate between NU and Muhammadiyah to discuss the dissolution of FPI," she told Khabar. "There should be no human rights violations related to FPI."

Jaffar Hakim, an Islamic cleric in Kendal, told Khabar the government should not bother to debate FPI's legal status.

"The government has an authority to disband FPI regardless of its legal status, especially for their acts of anarchy in Kendal and other places. It is important to make sure this incident does not happen in the future," he said.

On July 23rd, the government issued two letters of reprimand to the FPI, warning it to stop activities that cause disturbances in society, including sweeping.

According to police, seven people have been detained in the Kendal unrest – four local residents and three FPI members.

Suspects "have been arrested, processed, and detained. We're just waiting for the results, and we hope that everyone sees this process, because this is the fasting month. Don't be a vigilante," National Police chief Timur Pradopo told reporters in Jakarta.

Reader Comments
CLICK HERE to Add a Comment
    • Ali297
      April 15, 2014 @ 05:04:37AM
    • I agree to not dissolve the FPI. Eradicate depravity and the FPI will disband on its own when depravity is gone.
    • rahmat hidayat
      October 15, 2013 @ 10:10:55AM
    • Disband organisations are not in line with Islamic norms because they will bring conflict and disaster to Muslims in Indonesia.
    • Abdurrohman
      October 11, 2013 @ 12:10:46PM
    • I agree with the disbanding of FPI.
    • M. Satreawi
      October 3, 2013 @ 05:10:55AM
    • People, do not allow yourselves to be pitted against one another. All that exists in nature is the creation of Allah, whether bad or otherwise. Therefore, laws must be based on the laws of God, not man-made laws that are sometimes made on the basis of desire. Remember! Whether we like it or not, Allah will make the ultimate decision. FPI does not need to disband but fix your behavior through Rahmatan Lil Alamin. To those who comment passionately, repent, evaluate your heart.
    • imroah
      October 2, 2013 @ 08:10:30PM
    • FPI follows procedure before playing judge, they do not do a whim....long live FPI... long live Islam.
    • syafrullah
      October 2, 2013 @ 08:10:15AM
    • FPI is great, slandered here, disgraced there and yet they remain steadfast and firmly hold their ground. This is what it means to defend something good, valuable, cool, modern, and enlightened. To cure with the right dosage, means serious treatment. For example, if we want to treat a tetanus patient we would obviously use a large needle and it would be very painful whereas if we use a small needle we would just be playing around. Meanwhile, depravity runs rampant in our society and the perpetrators have no shame anymore. The medicine should be firm and hard punishment in accordance with sharia accepted by The Almighty and maybe even those in power. Amien.
    • koko
      September 29, 2013 @ 10:09:41PM
    • They must be disbanded.
    • wisnu
      September 29, 2013 @ 09:09:55AM
    • Dissolve them. The FPI are Muslims who do not have religious values.
    • icha
      September 29, 2013 @ 04:09:18AM
    • long live FPI
    • mufti
      September 27, 2013 @ 12:09:10PM
    • We should not blame anyone or any group in particular. The country is based on Pancasila and yet crime and depravity thrive. The government and state officials, the majority of whom are said to be Muslims, are the ones who need to improve their behavior. The government and its officials, 80% of them being Muslims, are being outshone by the other 20%. "Repent, Allah has given this country many warnings."
    • wawan
      September 27, 2013 @ 02:09:15AM
    • good
    • Hari
      September 17, 2013 @ 09:09:06PM
    • FPI absolutely needs to be disbanded.
    • setiyanto
      September 29, 2013 @ 09:09:41AM
    • Disband the FPI. They are arrogant and have no sense of compassion.
    • satu
      September 30, 2013 @ 11:09:21AM
    • Keep FPI alive.
    • Yanto
      September 17, 2013 @ 09:09:20PM
    • The country of Indonesia has its own laws to uphold, not the laws of FPI.
      September 14, 2013 @ 07:09:16AM
    • It is a shame that FPI is becoming worse and worse.
      September 14, 2013 @ 07:09:06AM
    • If FPI is disbanded we might as well disband other organizations.
    • anov
      September 6, 2013 @ 11:09:39AM
    • its ok no problem
    • dimas septian
      September 5, 2013 @ 03:09:57PM
    • Islam is beautiful.
    • aryo
      September 2, 2013 @ 09:09:19AM
    • I am also a Muslim, yet I do not sympathize with the ways of FPI to defeat injustice. There are still many ways to bring around those who would destroy human character.
    • teguh
      September 1, 2013 @ 12:09:16AM
    • FPI has a following because they have Defenders of Islam in the name when in reality it consists of small minded thugs who say that they are ready for jihad and ready to die and yet run away with their tails between their legs and hide in mosques when they are outnumbered. They are rather like a village virgin running away frantically because she is about to be raped. FPI is an organisation full of sissy thugs.
    • joy
      August 25, 2013 @ 01:08:11PM
    • What is right is that we surrender our will to God and ask for forgiveness. Always repent.
    • briggitaS_chance
      August 25, 2013 @ 08:08:21AM
    • Just destroyed it.!
    • arfiansyah
      August 24, 2013 @ 02:08:54AM
    • No one can justify violence towards people and claim it was done for the sake of religion. A religion is a belief that we must follow according to the guidelines set in the scripture that you believe in. So, let us deal with the social issues that arise in a humane way. Religion is not an institution or body of law within which we can seek protection.
    • asyraf
      August 18, 2013 @ 01:08:18AM
    • In reality, Islam loves peace. The Prophet himself disliked violence, especially when it claims fellow Muslims. It is not justified in the Koran. On the issue of law: this is a law abiding country, the law can be upheld as long as we think clearly and ask for information from those who enforce the law. Thank you.
    • Royhan Tibyani
      August 17, 2013 @ 08:08:48AM
    • They claim to be Muslims and yet want the FPI to be disbanded. They are what we call false/untrue Muslims. If FPI and other Islamic organizations did not exist, there would be so many more people who dislike Islam. If you do not like the actions of FPI, offer them a sound opinion, for example: change the system, avoid recruiting the wrong people, instill members with good character and so on. They should not be disbanded! I am not a member of FPI but I do not agree that FPI be disbanded.
    • Fen
      August 14, 2013 @ 06:08:26PM
    • This is an anti Islamic media, beware, the content is meant to pit people against each other.
    • Sadewa
      August 14, 2013 @ 10:08:03AM
    • It is not just in Kendal; if we pay attention, I'm certain it's the same in some regions. FPI must be disbanded!
    • jack
      August 14, 2013 @ 12:08:28AM
    • Proud hypocrites.
    • rizki
      August 13, 2013 @ 11:08:30AM
    • Disband it.
    • Nelson
      August 13, 2013 @ 05:08:58AM
    • Just send FPI to Medan, not just Kendal, so that they may taste the power of PP (Pemuda Pancasila) and the Amplas Thugs who will cleave their heads open first. Have the guts to face other people besides women. Your behavior is disgraceful; like monkeys.
    • Hasan Sobari
      August 13, 2013 @ 12:08:47AM
    • Let's do it like this: Don't disband FPI but regulate it more. Also, put those who engage in anarchic conduct and the ones accused of hitting that woman in Kendal with a car on trial and punish them accordingly Prove it, FPI. To me, whether you are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddha, Catholic, if you misbehave, you should be eliminated.
    • Khalifa
      August 12, 2013 @ 11:08:49PM
    • The one who calls himself a cleric from Kendal is a heretical pimp.
    • erham
      August 12, 2013 @ 08:08:13AM
    • I support FPI. Those who support its disbanding are wicked and hypocritical.
    • Ahmad
      August 11, 2013 @ 07:08:29PM
    • Islam is supposed to be peaceful and fight against depravity, not with violence but by restoring the principles of Islam in the hearts of Muslims.
    • dadang
      August 11, 2013 @ 07:08:21PM
    • Only infidels are afraid of FPI. I am an ordinary Muslim. It is natural that they would prevent injustice when everyone else is afraid.
    • samsul bahri
      August 11, 2013 @ 02:08:24PM
    • "All true goodness comes from Allah SWT and true evil is what humans choose to do! FPI is an Islamic organization that was built in accordance with the correct religious norms and laws! This organization is a vessel, or means to an end but it is the actions and attitude of people that directly implement the content and teachings of that religious foundation! The actions of this organization is wrong in its application of the rules and teachings for guiding society. So, in my opinion, it should be the people that should be dealt with and lawfully charged while continuing the faithful guidance and allow the organization to continue as a symbol of religious freedom towards a greater good, full of blessings.
    • ratno
      August 11, 2013 @ 07:08:25AM
    • Long live FPI.
    • rizki
      August 11, 2013 @ 02:08:59AM
    • This post is not very polite and is not in line with factual statements.
    • rois
      August 11, 2013 @ 12:08:05AM
    • Cheap site, all the news you write is wrong. Why do you write what you hear? The one that hit the Avanza was not a truck.
    • harial rial
      August 10, 2013 @ 04:08:38AM
    • FPI (Islam Destroyers Front). The government must disband FPI. If they do not have the courage to do so, then step down, don't just talk.
    • agus samroni
      August 10, 2013 @ 03:08:15AM
    • Just disband them. Indonesia is a lawful state, not an Islamic kingdom.
    • joko
      August 9, 2013 @ 03:08:18PM
    • They are all wrong and FPI remains good.

Add A Comment (Comments Policy)* denotes required field



The most important issue in Indonesia's presidential election is:

Photo Essay

Mariyah Nibosu, whose husband was shot dead in 2009 by unknown gunmen, stands outside her home in September 2013 in the state-run 'widows' village' of Rotan Batu, 20km from Narathiwat.

As Thailand's Deep South insurgency drags on, families suffer, persevere