The Jakarta Post
Hundreds of protesters took to the street on Friday against the recent burning of a black flag bearing an Islamic creed written in Arabic, demanding that the government and law enforcement prosecute the actors who had set the flag on fire.
They staged a rally in front of the office of Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto and decried the flag-burning incident, which involved members of Nahdlatul Ulama’s (NU) Barisan Ansor Serbaguna (Banser) youth wing and occurred during National Santri Day celebrations in Garut, West Java, on Monday.
Many of them, which include several conservative Islamic groups, carried a black-and-white flag bearing the tauhid and chanted the Islamic creed, the core of Islamic faith and belief, which says that "Allah is the one and only God."
The protesters believed that the actions of the Banser members — who had burned the flag because the latter thought it was the flag of outlawed Muslim group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) — was unacceptable and an insult to all Muslims.
"If the government doesn't want to be seen as anti-Islam or doesn't take sides with ulama, please prove that [the flag-burning] is wrong and cannot be tolerated," National Movement to Safeguard the Ulema Fatwa (GNPF) chairman Yusuf Martak said in his speech before the crowd. The GNPF was the force behind large rallies in late 2016 against former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who was later convicted for blasphemy.
They demanded that GP Ansor chairman Yaqut Cholil Qoumas be prosecuted for the flag-burning incident, while also demanding that Wiranto bridge a meeting between them, NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj, Yaqut and Banser executives.
On Wednesday, Yaqut held a press conference responding to the incident and said his organization would give a stern warning to the flag burners but insisted that the flags were HTI flags.
Yusuf and six other participants were received by Wiranto's secretary, Lt. Gen. Agus Surya Bakti, at the minister’s office for a discussion over the protesters' demand. Agus represented Wiranto, who was on a visit to Palu, Central Sulawesi, to discuss post-earthquake recovery with local governments.
After the meeting, Agus and the delegation representing the protesters addressed the crowd together; however, the participants of the rally expressed disappointment over Wiranto's absence as they booed when Agus spoke to them about the meeting at the office.
"We had a good talk and we will convey all of [the protesters'] aspirations to the coordinating minister [Wiranto]," Agus said.