August 30, 2013
Muslim leaders are calling for the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) to renounce violence after a series of clashes in Paciran district of Lamongan, East Java, this month. Meanwhile, a former jihadist militant is alleging that members of the group tried to recruit him for a bomb-making operation.
The incidents started with a fistfight involving FPI members at a playstation café in Blimbing village on August 8th. Three days later, a group of angry residents went looking for one of the three FPI men involved in the brawl. Failing to find him at home, they allegedly injured his wife.
On August 12th, looking to retaliate, angry FPI members ran amok in Kandang Semangkon village, damaging two houses and six motorcycles, and stabbing a man in the back and head.
The mayhem has left local people rattled and further cemented the group's reputation for lawlessness.
Nuriah Husni, a 25-year-old Lamongan resident, said she feared there would be other clashes following the most recent incident.
"I am afraid that FPI members will do crazy things in retaliation. I think most people in Lamongan do not respect FPI's action," she told Khabar Southeast Asia. "I hope what happened in Central Java will not happen here," she said, referring to the death of a woman accidently hit by an FPI vehicle after a clash with residents in Kendal, Central Java.
A local cleric, meanwhile, told Khabar that the goal of protecting Islam is laudable, but that violence is not the right way to achieve it.
"FPI has a positive goal of defending Islam. However, the way they are doing it must be improved and done in a professional manner. Remember, Islam teaches peace, not violence. FPI needs to balance these two attitudes," the cleric, Muhammad Al Ashari, said.
He urged people upset by the FPI to remain calm and not try to attack the group in return. "We should not conduct any more retaliation. Let's trust our authorities to follow up on this," he said.
Meanwhile, police responding to the riots found disturbing evidence of the FPI's tendency to provoke violence. They confiscated sharp weapons -- samurai swords, machetes, bayonets, and sickles – and arrested 42 FPI members and 6 local residents.
National Police spokesman Agus Rianto said the suspects would be charged under the 1951 Emergency Law on possession of sharp weapons and the Criminal Code's Article 351 on physical abuse, The Jakarta Post reported.
Lamongan native Ali Fauzi,43, a former jihadi and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) member, said according to Islam, education and mental development are preferable methods for encouraging correct behaviour.
While steering people away from drugs, alcohol and prostitution is a laudable goal, he said, this can be done without physical violence.
He also alleged that FPI members had asked him personally for assistance in making bombs.
"I refused to do it, and they understood," he told Khabar.