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Jakarta Post

Indonesian Police assert control over MUI fatwas

  • Marguerite Afra Sapiie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, December 21, 2016   /  07:25 am
Indonesian Police assert control over MUI fatwas Security concerns: National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian (left) wipes his forehead as Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma’ruf Amin (center) and Islam Defenders Front (FPI) chairman Rizieq Shihab look on during a press conference at the MUI in Jakarta in a recent photo. Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin has defended the council's fatwa, or edict, prohibiting companies and business owners from forcing their employees to wear Christmas-related paraphernalia . (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

In a move that reflects the growing influence of conservative groups in the country, National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian has said he will send a liaison officer to the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to ensure that its fatwas do not disrupt religious harmony.

The police chief is currently under public pressure to keep hard-line groups under control following reports that some of them have been visiting business establishments to inform them about a recent MUI fatwa banning Muslims from wearing Christmas paraphernalia.

In Surabaya, East Java, the local police decided to escort members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) when they visited local malls to publicize the MUI’s edict. The police said the move was necessary to prevent possible public disturbances.

The move, however, has drawn strong rebuke from the public, who accused the police of bowing down to the MUI and the FPI.

Speaking at the office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister on Tuesday, Tito said the MUI should first communicate with the force before issuing any edict that had the potential to make a massive impact on public order. “Don’t issue an edict before coordinating with us. [The National Police] has the authority to enforce laws. We will see whether an edict is positive or not and if it is, we will assist to publicize it,” he said.

He argued that the MUI edict on Christmas attributes was confusing and could be abused by irresponsible parties. “If confusing edicts circulate in society, there will be [irresponsible] people who will carry out actions [based on the edicts]. People wearing Santa Claus clothing can be affected too,” Tito said.

MUI chairman Ma’ruf Amin denied that the council’s fatwa had caused commotion in society. He argued that the council had received reports about Muslims being forced to wear Christmas paraphernalia and that the fatwa was meant to protect religious harmony.

Ma’ruf, who visited Tito’s residence in South Jakarta on Tuesday night to discuss the edict, said the MUI and the police had reached an agreement that the publicity for the edict would be carried out by the MUI chapters at the local level and by the local police.

“We cannot allow any crackdown to be carried out by certain groups. [They] have nothing to do with the MUI edict because only the police can do it [enforce law],” Ma’ruf said, adding that mass organizations that want to conduct publicity should do it peacefully without intimidation.

The police also asserted that members of mass organizations are not law enforcers who could conduct raids.

Tito made it clear that the National Police would punish any group or person who break the law.

On Monday evening, the Central Java Police reportedly arrested five members of a local organization called the Surakarta Islamic Paramilitary Troops (LUIS) for allegedly raiding and vandalizing the Social Kitchen restaurant in Surakarta.

The men allegedly stormed into the restaurant and beat some staff members and customers, injuring nine people in the attack.

However, LUIS spokesperson Endro Sudarsono, one of those arrested, claimed that they had not intended to commit violence as they only wanted to meet with the restaurant management because the latter was selling alcohol and allegedly violating regulations about opening hours.

Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil, in collaboration with local police, has established a task force to ensure tolerance between people of different religions in the city amid concerns that some Muslim conservatives had disrupted the Christmas celebrations of Christian groups in recent weeks.

Ganug Nugroho Adi and Arya Dipa contributed to this story from Surakarta and Bandung.

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