Research (PDF Available) · April 2018with 180 Reads
The success of the Islamist alliance that brought down the Jakarta governor in 2016 raised concerns that religious conservatives were gaining ground in Indonesia to the detriment of pluralism and civil rights. The alliance quickly broke up, revealing major differences in the long-term goals and short-term political interests of its leaders as well as deep personal rivalries among them. The break-up, however, does not mean that the so-called 212 Movement, named after the rally on 2 December 2016 that proved to be the biggest political demonstration in Indonesian history, can be dismissed as a one-off event of little lasting significance. It is true that it will be difficult for the Islamists to find an issue as susceptible to mass mobilisation as the alleged blasphemy of Gov Basuki Purnama Tjahaja, better known as Ahok. But each component part of the alliance used the 212 movement to advance its own distinct agenda. The agendas are different and sometimes contradictory but the overall impact has been to increase the perceived need of mainstream politicians to appeal to conservative constituencies and thus help advance Islamist goals.
6 April 2018
IPAC Report No. 44
I. Introduction ........................................................................................... 1
II. e 212 Movement in Brief ................................................................. 2
III. e Sala-Modernist Network of Bachtiar Nasir.............................. 4
A. e Saudi and Sahwa Inuence .. .................................................. 4
B. Social Transformation in Indonesia ............................................. 5
C. Unifying Modernists and Salas through MIUMI ................... 6
D. Unifying Conservatives and Jihadis through Humanitarian Aid 7
IV. Front Pembela Islam (FPI) ................................................................... 8
A. FPI Background ............................................................................. 9
B. Mass Base ........................................................................................ 10
C. FPI’s Political Goals ....................................................................... 11
V. Other Components of e 212 Movement ......................................... 12
A. Wahdah Islamiyah.......................................................................... 12
B. Forum Umat Islam (FUI) .............................................................. 13
C. e Zikir Groups ............................................................................ 14
VI. How ey Joined Forces in the Anti-Ahok Campaign ..................... 15
A. e Jakarta People’s Movement (Gerakan Masyarakat Jakarta) 15
B. Council of Jakarta Assistants (Majelis Pelayan Jakarta) ............. 16
VII. e Government Response .................................................................. 17
A. “Criminalisation” of Ulama ........................................................... 17
B. e Ban on Hizbut Tahrir ............................................................... 18
VIII. Collapse of 212 Unity............................................................................ 19
A. FPI Squabbles .................................................................................. 19
B. Khaththath and Gerakan Indonesia Sholat Subuh (GISS) ........ 22
C. Bachtiar Nasir and the Sala-inspired Networks ....................... 23
D. MIUMI 2.0 ...................................................................................... 24
IX. Conclusion ............................................................................................. 25
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 1
e success of the Islamist alliance that brought down the Jakarta governor in 2016 raised
concerns that religious conservatives were gaining ground in Indonesia to the detriment of
pluralism and civil rights. e alliance quickly broke up, revealing major dierences in the long-
term goals and short-term political interests of its leaders as well as deep personal rivalries
among them. e break-up, however, does not mean that the so-called 212 Movement, named
aer the rally on 2 December 2016 that proved to be the biggest political demonstration in
Indonesian history, can be dismissed as a one-o event of little lasting signicance. It is true
that it will be dicult for the Islamists to nd an issue as susceptible to mass mobilisation as the
alleged blasphemy of Gov Basuki Purnama Tjahaja, better known as Ahok. But each component
part of the alliance used the 212 movement to advance its own distinct agenda. e agendas are
dierent and sometimes contradictory but the overall impact has been to increase the perceived
need of mainstream politicians to appeal to conservative constituencies and thus help advance
Islamist goals.
e two most important components of the 212 Movement were the Sala-inspired activists
and the conservative traditionalists. ey have little in common theologically or strategically,
though their political interests sometimes coincide. e Sala-inspired activists, led by Bachtiar
Nasir, have the most clearly articulated long-term objectives: a greater public role for ulama,
shari’a-inspired public policies, Muslim majority rule and Muslim control of the economy. ey
are careful to stay within accepted political bounds, and avoid calling for formal application
of Islamic law or an Islamic state. Strongly inuenced by the so-called Sahwa movement from
the early 1990s in Saudi Arabia, a fusion of Muslim Brotherhood activism and Sala-wahabi
religious tenets, they aim to transform state and society from the bottom up along more puritan
lines. eir instruments of choice are not political parties but educational institutions, religious
outreach (dakwah) groups, the media and civil society through which they hope to shape public
opinion. Bachtiar Nasir has been able to translate his role in the 212 Movement into signicantly
increased inuence, as measured in part by his media prole, the numbers attending his religious
programs, and the number of national political gures trying to court him.
e conservative traditionalists, represented by Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela
Islam, FPI), are closer to the mainstream Nahdlatul Ulama, from which many of their members
come. ey have a mass base and mobilisation capacity that the Salas lack, enabling them
to build tactical alliances for short-term mutual benet with political candidates, despite FPI’s
reputation for thuggery. FPI leader Habib Rizieq Shihab used the anti-Ahok campaign to
catapult himself into a position of unprecedented political prominence and seemed on the verge
of becoming a important broker for the 2019 elections.1 But he also alienated his long-term
allies in the police. In April 2017, he ed to Saudi Arabia to avoid arrest on pornography charges,
abrubtly halting his move into formal politics. His absence as the presidential campaign moves
into high gear may keep FPIs inuence limited.
A concerted government campaign to discredit the Islamists and their own disunity suggest
that Indonesia is not going to make any sudden lurch to the right. At the same time, the 212
Movement arguably changed Indonesian politics by showing how potent the religious card can
be if the issue at hand is framed as defending Islam from attack by non-Muslims. en the
formula is clear: instructions go out to the faithful through social media and Friday sermons;
Jakarta is brought to a standstill through mass demonstrations; and the government capitulates.
1 For a detailed analysis of the Islamist mobilisation and FPI’s role in particular, see Marcus Mietzner, Burhanuddin Muhtadi
and Rizka Halida, “Entrepreneurs of Grievance: Drivers and Eects of Indonesias Islamist Mobilisation,” forthcoming
2 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
e formula is unlikely to work against President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in 2019, but it is now
out there for other politicians to try. Its success against Ahok at the very least has produced a
realisation among conservative politicians and Islamist activists that their tactical interests may
is report examines the organisational components of the 212 movement: how they came
together, what they want in terms of political and social change and why they broke up. It is based
on extensive interviews with leaders, supporters and opponents of the 212 Movement, analysis
of documents produced by its members, and Indonesian media sources.
e 212 Movement has its origins in Islamist opposition to Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian,
from holding elected oce in Jakarta, a Muslim majority city. Jokowi and Ahok were elected
governor and deputy governor of Jakarta respectively in 2012 for a ve-year term. ey made a
good team, with Jokowi as the Javanese man of the people, hobnobbing in markets, and Ahok, a
businessman, as the no-nonsense administrator, cleaning up dead wood in the bureaucracy and
oen lashing out at poor performers with a notoriously harsh tongue. When Jokowi was elected
president in 2014, Ahok automatically succeeded to the governorship to ll out the remaining
three years of Jokowi’s term, but Islamist organisations were deeply unhappy, arguing that only a
Muslim could govern other Muslims. eir opposition intensied when Ahok decided to stand
for governor in 2017. He was backed by the same party that had backed Jokowi for the presidency,
the Indonesian Democratic Struggle Party (PDIP). One of his opponents was Anies Baswedan,
a former university rector and Jokowis rst Minister of Education, backed by Gerindra, the
party whose boss, Prabowo Subianto, had lost the presidency to Jokowi in 2014. Prabowo had a
long history of working with Islamist groups. Another, representing Partai Demokrat, was Agus
Yudhoyono, the son of Jokowis predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudoyhono, running in his rst-
ever political contest.
On 27 September 2016, as the campaign was moving into high gear, Ahok made a speech
to a group of civil servants in which he told them not to be fooled by people using a Qur’anic
verse, Surat al-Maidah 51, to suggest that they would go to hell if they voted for him; they should
vote their conscience.2 On 6 October, a slightly doctored video of the speech was systematically
disseminated over social media, and over a dozen organisations reported the governor to the
police for blasphemy. On 11 October, the Indonesian Ulama Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia,
MUI) issued a ruling that Ahoks words had indeed been blasphemous. Shortly thereaer an
alliance called the National Movement to Defend the MUI Fatwa (Gerakan Nasional Pengawal
Fatwa-MUI, GNPF-MUI) was born, with Rizieq leading the advisory council and Bachtiar as
head. It organised a series of ever larger demonstrations called Action to Defend Islam (Aksi Bela
Islam) demanding that Ahok be arrested. e rst was on 14 October and drew a few thousand.
e second was on 4 November, with possibly 300,000 protestors and rumors of nancing by
Ahok’s political rivals. e police, hoping to deate the movement and avert violence, declared
Ahok a suspect. But the Islamists and their political backers saw the opportunity for ensuring
Ahok’s downfall, and announced a third rally for 2 December (212). Some 750,000 activists
brought the capital to a standstill, and the government announced that Ahok’s trial would begin
Ahok went on trial as preparations for the election got underway. He came out highest in
the rst round, edging out the Gerindra slate by 43 to 40 per cent but short of the 51 per cent
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 3
needed to avoid a run-o. As he and Anies Baswedan faced o in a second round, the Islamist
coalition now known as the 212 Movement went into high gear, telling Jakarta residents through
Friday sermons, social media and other means that it was their obligation to vote for a Muslim
candidate. On 19 April 2017, Anies Baswedan won the second round with almost 58 per cent of
the vote against Ahoks 42 per cent. On 9 May, Ahok was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced
to two years in prison.
e 212 Movement that had engineered the protests against him was a tactical alliance of
several Islamist groups:
• e Sala-modernist network led by Bachtiar Nasir in Jakarta and Zaitun Rasmin of
the Makassar-based Wahdah Islamiyah.3 Both are very much rooted in the educated
middle class; both want the further Islamisation of Indonesian state and society through
grassroots activism outside the formal political system, with an emphasis on education
and media. ey do not call directly for formal application of Islamic law or the creation
of an Islamic State.4
• FPI, led by Habib Rizieq Shihab, a charismatic preacher of Hadrami (Yemeni) descent
and other traditionalist clerics. It began as an organisation that drew on the urban poor
but has gradually expanded its social base. Its importance to the movement lies in its
ability to mobilise huge numbers of people and keep them fairly disciplined (perhaps
thanks to close ties to the security forces). Its leaders have called for the restoration of a
constitutional clause that would oblige Indonesian Muslims to obey Islamic law, but it
is generally more focused on alliances with politicians and members of security forces
to achieve short-term goals and material reward. It has little in common theologically
with the sala-modernist network.
• Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the Indonesian branch of a transnational organisation
committed to the restoration of the caliphate (but deeply opposed to the ISIS version).
It was ocially banned in 2017 for having an ideology in violation of Pancasila, the ve
principles on which the Indonesian state is based. An elitist organisation with a strong
presence on university campuses, it is committed to the inltration of government and
security forces so that Islamic governance can be achieved from within.
• Forum Umat Islam, a coalition led by Muhammad al-Khaththath, a former HTI leader.
Al-Khaththath provided the creative energy for much of the movement and replaced
Bachtiar Nasir as head of one of its key bodies, the GNPF-MUI, in March 2018. He does
not have a membership base to mobilise but it is he who comes up with names, slogans
and actions that can keep activists motivated.
• Urban-based zikir “councils” (majelis zikir), a form of Su order aliated with
charismatic preachers and sometimes with politicians seeking to boost their image with
a pious middle-class constituency.
3 Both modernists and Salas call for the return to Qur’an and Sunnah as the basis of Islamic law and for purication of the
faith from folk traditions and what they consider groundless innovations (bi d ’a h ) such as tomb visitation. However, while
modernists, best represented in Indonesia by the Muhammadiyah organisation, emphasise a forward-looking Islamic
vision and a rationalist approach to religious texts, salas idealise the “pure” Islam as practiced by the rst two or three
generations of Muslims (salaf al-salih). ey are also much more literal in their interpretation of scripture.
4 In early 2000s, some Wahdah Islamiyah members in Sulawesi joined a local shari’a advocacy group called the Preparatory
Committee for the Upholding Islamic Law (Komite Persiapan Penegakan Syariat Islam, KPPSI), which later changed its
name to the Committee for the Struggle of Upholding Islamic Law. Wahdah as an organisation, however, emphasises on
dakwah and education rather than political advocacy to raise public awareness about shari’a.
4 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
Understanding the dierent interests of these components and how they came together is
critical to understanding the role that Islamists will play in the 2019 presidential elections and
Bachtiar Nasir emerged from the 212 Movement as the face of sophisticated Islamist activism in
Indonesia. His worldview is a hybrid of modernist Muhammadiyah and sala activist (haraki),
to which he was exposed while studying in Saudi Arabia.5 He is more tolerant of practical politics
than many Salas, seeing democratic political participation as a necessary evil to achieve Islamist
goals. He and his supporters envision a gradual Islamisation process in Indonesia, similar to
what his role model, Recep Tayyep Erdogan, accomplished in Turkey. ey are not working
toward a theocracy or transnational caliphate but rather a state that upholds Islamic law:
Islam accepts democracy but the question is, does democracy accept Islam? We’re the
majority, therefore according to democratic principles, we should be the ones who
determine the law.6
e statement suggests that Bachtiar sees democracy only in terms of majoritarian rule as
a means to achieve Islamist control. While rejecting violence (and strongly rejecting ISIS),
he is sympathetic to jihadi extremists who ght against Muslim persecution, and sees their
activism as preferable to the do-nothing stance of the leadership of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and
Muhammadiyah, Indonesias two mammoth Muslim social organisations. Indeed, he sees himself
as bridge between the hardliners who feel underrepresented in existing religious institutions
and the Muslim establishment, and in dening himself as moderate, he has tried to move the
denition of moderation to the right.
A. The Saudi and Sahwa inuence
Bachtiar’s thinking was shaped by his background. Born in Jakarta on 26 June 1967 to parents
from Bone (South Sulawesi), Bachtiar grew up in the traditionalist coastal village of Luar
Batang, North Jakarta, where his father worked as a sherman.7 His parents sent him to study
5 Some scholars argue for dividing salas into three groups: purist, haraki (non-violent activist) and jihadi (violent extremist).
Both haraki and purists view democracy as un-Islamic, but the latter believe a Muslim ruler must be obeyed as long as
he does not renounce his Islamic faith, even if democratically elected. Harakis hold that obedience to the government is
conditional upon whether it governs according to God’s law (tauhid hakimiyah). If not, then religious scholars (ulama)
have an obligation to criticise it in a peaceful manner. Like members of the Muslim Brotherhood (the quintessential haraki
organisation), sala harakis view Islam as an all-encompassing religion that governs social and political as well as spiritual
aspects of life. Purist salas oen refer to the harakis pejoratively as “Sururi”, aer Muhammad Surur bin Nayif Zayn
al-Abidin, a Brotherhood member who moved to Saudi Arabia in 1965 and adopted Wahhabi theology while retaining
Brotherhood ideals of change through non-violent mobilisation. Wahabism is a strand of Salasm inspired by Muhammad
ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th century Arab cleric who cooperated with Muhammad bin Saud, Saudi state founder. Zoltan
Pall, Lebanese Salas between the Gulf and Europe, (Amsterdam, 2013), pp. 25-27.
6 IPAC interview with Bachtiar Nasir, Jakarta, 10 August 2017.
7 In early 2016, Luar Batang was one of the coastal villages evicted by the Ahok government for a port development project.
Bachtiar and FPI assisted in organising local resistance against the forced eviction.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 5
at Pesantren Gontor, in Ponorogo, East Java, one of Indonesias best-known Islamic schools.8
Gontor’s modernist outlook helped steer Bachtiar toward Muhammadiyah, though he did not
formally join the organisation until much later.9
Aer nishing his studies in 1988, he went to his family’s old home in Bone to memorise
the Qur’an at a local school, where his mentor was Lanre Said, the ex-military commander of
Darul Islam, the insurgency active in South Sulawesi in the 1950s that sought to establish an
Islamic State.10 Upon completing his studies, Bachtiar was accepted into the Islamic University
of Medina (IUM) to study shari’a from 1990 to 1994.
He arrived in Saudi Arabia at a time of high tension. e rst Gulf War (1990-1991) had caused
huge friction within the elite, with the ocial ulama establishment insisting on unwavering
loyalty to the government, while others, deeply opposed to the presence of U.S. military forces
in the Gulf, joined Sahwa, a peaceful Islamist resistance movement. e ulama behind Sahwa,
mostly local sympathisers of the Muslim Brotherhood and sala haraki, saw the U.S. presence as
proof that the Saudi kingdom was totally dependent on an indel force, which in fact had long
corrupted the government by installing secularist, American-educated elites.11 ey saw the war
itself as part of a U.S. grand design to conquer the Gulf. Sahwa activists used the opportunity
to galvanise popular support for broader political and social reform, including by demanding a
bigger role for independent ulama in governance to prevent Western inltration.12 e impact of
the Sahwa movement reached far beyond Saudi Arabia, dividing Sala communities elsewhere,
including in Indonesia.13
Sahwa shaped Bachtiar’s worldview in several ways. He became convinced that a global
secularist conspiracy was intent on destroying Islam, and he saw the broadening of clergy’s role
into social and political aairs as the only antidote.14 He also saw the disunity that the Gulf War
debate created even among his fellow Indonesian students at the University of Medina, and
he and his circle of friends became committed to the idea of forging Islamic unity. One of his
friends there was Zaitun Rasmin, a student from Makassar, Sulawesi who had co-founded a dakwah
movement that later become the mass organisation, Wahdah Islamiyah.
8 Established in 1926, Pesantren Modern Darussalam, better known as Gontor, was one of the rst pesantrens to introduce a
modern curriculum with an emphasis on Arabic and English skills to prepare students to face globalisation. Gontor holds
a principle of political independence, although it was historically close to Masyumi, the modernist-dominated Islamist
party (1945-1960) which metamorphosed into the conservative religious outreach organisation, Dewan Dakwah Islam
Indonesia in 1962. See Martin Van Bruinessen, “Divergent paths from Gontor: Muslim educational reform and the travails
of pluralism in Indonesia, in Freek L. Bakker and Jan Sihar Aritonang (eds.), On the Edge of Many Worlds[Festschri Karel
A. Steenbrink], (Zoetermeer, 2006), pp. 152-162.
9 Bachtiar was recruited to Muhammadiyah National Board in 2010, under the leadership of Din Syamsudin, a fellow Gontor
10 For more on Darul Islam, see Solahudin (Dave McRae, trans.), e Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia: From Darul Islam to
Jema’ah Islamiyah, (Singapore, 2013).
11 Support for the Brotherhood developed in Saudi Arabia in the 1950s-1960s aer Egyptian and Syrian members moved
there, eeing repression in Nasser’s Egypt and the Ba’athist-dominated Syria. Many taught at Saudi schools and universities
and had a major impact on Saudi youth. Stéphane Lacroix (George Holoch, trans.), Awakening Islam, (Cambridge, 2011),
p. 40.
12 Joas Wagemakers, A Quietist Jihadi: e Ideology and Inuence of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, (Cambridge, 2012), pp.
13 Noorhaidi Hasan, “Ambivalent Doctrines and Conicts in the Sala Movement,” in Roel Meijer. Ed. Global Salasm:
Islam’s New Religious Movement, (New York, 2009), pp. 169-188.
14 For a sample of his lecture that contains points on global conspiracy, see
6 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
B. Social Transformation in Indonesia
Aer returning from Medina in 1994, Bachtiar briey entered the corporate world but
quickly went back to teaching.15 He began by leading religious discussions (pengajian) at his
neighbourhood in East Jakarta in 2001, and by 2009 was able to establish his own Islamic centre,
Ar-Rahman Qur’anic Learning (AQL) in South Jakarta. AQL Islamic Centre became known for
an approach to religious teaching known as “contemplating the Qur’an”(tadabbur al-Qur’an).
Unlike traditional Qura’nic exegesis (tafsir), which Bachtiar and other conservatives saw as
having been tainted by liberals and orientalists, tadabbur aimed at social transformation. In
2013, Bachtiar invited the prominent Sahwa scholar Nasir bin Sulaiman al-Umar, head of the
international tadabbur movement, to Jakarta to launch the Indonesian branch. Board members
included Bachtiar, Zaitun Rasmin, and celebrity preacher Ust. Yusuf Mansyur.16
Bachtiar gives tadabbur lectures at Masjid Pondok Indah and AQL Centre in Tebet three
times a week, with hundreds of urban, middle class participants in each. ese men and women
are increasingly reluctant to identify as NU or Muhammadiyah but instead see themselves as
part of a cosmopolitan global community of the faithful (ummah). To accommodate them, AQL
Centre oers a wide range of programs for Muslim families, from regular pengajian; fee-based
short courses on topics such as Islamic parenting and youth leadership; and a pilgrimage travel
agency. Its professionally run charity program hosts a gala fund-raising dinner and auction
each year that is especially popular. In addition, AQL has an aliated Islamic boarding school
with 500 students and a newly established Qur’an institute in Bogor, West Java. e 1,500 loyal
members of AQL do not include the hundreds of thousands who follow Bachtiar on social
media. As of early 2018, he had over 350,000 followers on Facebook, 573,000 on Instagram and
141,000 on Twitter.17
Bachtiar’s online popularity is the result of a deliberate dakwah strategy to use media as a
weapon in the war of ideas between Islam and the West (ghazw al-kr). Preachers, he once
told a group of students, “must have an inltrator mindset” and get into mainstream TV and
social media as to inuence young people.18 He began by uploading short videos on AQL and
other Islamic websites. In 2011, he launched his television career as a coach for an American
Idol-like contest on Indonesian television to nd the most popular preacher (da’i). In 2012, he
inspired a television producer to create Indonesias rst childrens Qur’an memorisation contest
on television and then became one of the judges. e rst season of the show aired in Ramadhan
2013 and was watched by over 40 million people.19
C. Unifying Modernists and Salas through MIUMI
Bachtiar’s interest in uniting different streams of Islamists was one of the objectives behind
the creation on 28 February 2012 of the Indonesian Council of Young Intellectuals and Ulama
(Majelis Intelektual dan Ulama Muda Indonesia, MIUMI).
15 When his own business collapsed at the time of the Asian nancial crisis, a Chinese electronic company tried to recruit
him as country director in Doha, Qatar. e company invited him to Chengdu, China to negotiate the contract, but he was
shocked when the Chinese, not knowing that he was an ustadz, brought him to some vulgar entertainment places. IPAC
interview, 7 November 2017.
16 “Lembaga Tadabbur al-Qur’an Indonesia Diresmikan di Istiqlal”,, 4 June 2013.
17 As a comparison, Muhammadiyah only has 37,000 and NU 183,500,000 Instagram followers, although both organisations
have much larger grassroots followings.
19 “Erwin Amirul: Teamwork adalah Kunci Keberhasilan ‘Hadz Indonesia’,, 30 July 2013.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 7
Bachtiar and fellow founder Zaitun Rasmin wanted to create an alternative to the existing
Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI).20 MIUMI aimed to become “the foremost formal Islamic
leadership authority in the implementation of Islamic values”; to promote research-based fatwa
rulings; and to be a unifying platform for intellectuals from across the Islamic spectrum.21
Fahmi Salim, a MIUMI member from Muhammadiyah, noted that MIUMI was not intended to
be a mass membership social organisation (organisasi masyarakat, ormas) but a think-tank to
promote dakwah grounded in contextual knowledge of politics, economy and history.22 He said
it was specically targeting the Muslim middle class in the hope that “the Islamisation concepts
promoted by MIUMI could be applied by talented professionals”.23
With over a dozen branches in Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi, MIUMI’s membership consists
of four overlapping streams: Gontor alumni, Wahdah Islamiyah, Saudi alumni and a mix
of conservative young scholars from the modernist organisation Persatuan Islam (PERSIS);
Muhammadiyah; Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII); and to a much lesser extent,
NU. Together these components have the potential to command a vast grassroots network.24
Gontor, for example, not only has 20 satellite schools and a vast alumni association, but each
local alumni group has its own WhatsApp group. e anti-Ahok campaign prompted Gontor’s
leaders to jump into practical politics for the rst time. In an unprecedented move, Gontor
encouraged its alumni to join in the anti-Ahok rallies and allowed all its voting-age Jakartan
students to go home to vote – for the Muslim candidate.25 One Gontor activist claims that 90 per
cent of the alumni supported the 212 Movement.26 e Bekasi branch of the alumni association
gave out free food during the protests and the Aceh branch sent representatives to Jakarta.27
D. Unifying Conservatives and Jihadis through Humanitarian Aid
If MIUMI brought salas and modernists together, Bachtiar’s humanitarian aid eorts moved
him closer to the non-ISIS extremists. Charity and humanitarian relief have always been a big
part of AQL. Bachtiar had established Spirit of Aqsa on 25 July 2010 as AQL’s humanitarian
wing, and he and his team regularly went to Gaza to deliver aid and preach.
When the Syria conict erupted, Bachtiar, like many in the sala and sala jihadi community,
saw it as the beginning of the nal battle at the end of time (al-malhamah al-kubra) foretold in
Islamic prophesies.28 He joined forces with other Islamic relief groups that shared this view,
including the Hilal Ahmar Society of Indonesia (HASI), a humanitarian group with strong links
to Jemaah Islamiyah.29 On 16 October 2012 HASI organised a seminar at DDII’s headquarters
to consolidate Syria-related charities, attended by several non-violent extremist groups, Majelis
Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) among them. ey agreed to establish a coordinating body for
20 ey saw MUI as oen undermined by liberal intellectuals, and believed that people no longer respected its fatwas.
“MIUMI, Asa Menegakkan Fatwa”,, 29 February 2012.
21 “Visi Misi Majelis Intelektual dan Ulama Muda Indonesia”, 26 May 2015.
22 is was another concept drawn from the Sahwa movement which stressed the importance of understanding the current
state of aairs and local context (qh waqi’).
23 “Fahmi Salim: MIUMI Tidak Menjadi Ormas,,12 March 2012.
24 Gontor alone has 20 satellite pesantrens (with almost 25,000 students and sta) and 283 aliated schools established by its
alumni, as well as an extensive alumni association with branches in 85 districts and 10 countries where tens of thousands
of alumni gather regularly. “Yusuf Mansyur Muliakan Kiai dan Alumni Gontor”,, 23 January 2016.
25 “Pesantren Gontor Izinkan Santri Asal DKI Jakarta Pulang Sukseskan Pilkada”,, 10 February 2017.
26 IPAC interview with Lut Fathullah, co-founder of Majelis Pelayan Jakarta, 3 November 2017.
27 “IKPM Bekasi Ambil Peran Bagikan Logistik Saat Aksi 212.” 3 December 2016.
28 IPAC, “Indonesians and the Syrian Conict”, IPAC Report No. 6, 30 January 2014. Available at http://le.
29 IPAC. 2017. “e Re-emergence of Jemaah Islamiyah.” IPAC Report No. 36. 20 April. Available on http://le.understand-
8 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
humanitarian fundraising for Syria and Bachtiar soon became its head.30
ese fundraising programs had strong anti-Shi’a overtones. Farid Okbah, a founding memberof
MIUMI and leading anti-Shia ideologue, was a frequent discussant, and he and Bachtiar
portrayed the conict as a Sunni massacre at the hands of a Shi’a tyrant.31 Bachtiar, however,
encouraged nancial jihad (jihad bil mal) rather than direct participation and argued that there
were ten Qur’anic verses prioritising nancial jihad over armed struggle and only one suggesting
the other way around.32 Aer Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi declared in late June 2014 that ISIS had
established a new caliphate, MIUMI issued a rejoinder on 14 August 2014, arguing that the
so-called caliphate had not been established through a truly Islamic mechanism (shura and ahl
al-hall wa al-‘aqd) and that in fact, it was a Western conspiracy to destroy the image of caliphate
by representing it as brutal and violent.33 Among the signatories of the MIUMI statement were
former JI amir Abu Rusydan and Abdul Rahim Ba’asyir, the son of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir.
FPI had little in common theologically with Bachtiars network.34 FPI leaders are very much
traditionalist, closer to NU than to Salas. Many traditional practices that are rejected by Sala-
modernists, such as the celebration of the Prophet’s Birthday (Maulid), are enthusiastically
carried out by FPI. Rizieq had oen criticised Sala-Wahhabis in his speeches; he even called
them “morons” for equating traditionalist Muslims with Shia just because both express
veneration of Prophet Muhammad and his descendants.35 e anti-Ahok campaign papered
over the dierences but it was always an uncomfortable alliance.
30 e name of the coordinating body was Forum Indonesia Peduli Suriah (FIPS). “Terbentuk, Forum Indonesia Peduli
Suriah”,, 16 October 2012.
31 e sectarian narrative echoed the views of Nasir al-Umar, the Sahwa scholar and Bachtiar’s tadabbur mentor, who stated
in early 2011 that “what was happening [in Syria] was nothing but a religious war (harb ‘aqadiyya) between Sunnis and
Nusayri [i.e. Alawite] regime whose strongest allies are Shiites and Jews. Stephane Lacroix, “Saudi Islamists and the Arab
Spring”, Kuwait Programme on Development, Governance and Globalisation in the Gulf States No. 36, (London, 2014).
Available on
33 e statement cited fatwas against ISIS from two organisations in which Bachtiar was active, the International Union of
Muslim Scholars, chaired by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and the Muslim Ulama Association (Rabitah Ulama al-Muslimin) chaired
by Nasir al-Umar. “Ini Sikap MIUMI Terkait Deklarasi Khilafah oleh ISIS.”,, 14 August 2014.
34 FPI, like most Indonesian Muslims, follows the traditionalist Ash’arite thelogical school, named aer its ninth century
pioneer Abu Hasan al-Ash’ari, that combines scriptural text and philosophical reasoning. By contrast, modern Salasm’s
creed is derived from Ibnu Taimiyah, a late 13th century critic of reason and advocate of absolute reliance on divine texts.
ese dierences aect how the two groups see relations between the government and the people. Salas take a literalist
interpretation of God’s physical attributes mentioned in the Qur’an (e.g. God’s hand, God sits on the rone), which
Ash’arites interpret metaphorically. Salas also dene faith (iman) as both conviction and real action. Politically, it means
that a ruler who speaks of belief in God but engages in “deviant” practices which could range from mysticism to secularism,
is in fact un-Islamic and therefore open to criticism and challenge (although salas disagree over the method). e
accommodationist Ash’arites dene faith primarily as conviction and strongly oppose takr (excommunication), arguing
that even people who have committed major sins should still be considered Muslims. As such, Ash’arites condemn rebellion
against legitimate leaders even when they have sinned. (See JeryR.Halverson, eology and Creed in Sunni Islam, (New
York, 2010), pp. 39-40; 77). FPI justies its vigilante attacks on gambling and prostitution centres as an attempt to assist
the government in combating social ills; indeed, it has oen done so in close coordination with the police. While Salas
seek to transform Muslim society according to the supposedly more correct Sala doctrines, FPI tries to preserve local
long-embraced traditionalist beliefs, hence the attack on so-called deviant and foreign Islamic sects such as Ahmadiyah in
West Java and Sala groups in Aceh. FPI has joined Nahdlatul Ulama in refuting Sala clerics who condemn Ash’arites as
heretical for their use of reason to interpret divine scriptures. (See Rizieq’s refutation of Sala Ustadz Yusuf Baisa: https:// In its activism, however, FPI prefers working with non-belligerent Sala
gures rather than NU leaders who lack Islamic zeal. (IPAC interview with FPI sympathisers and ocial, November 2017
and February 2018).
35 Rizieq himself has been accused by some Salas of being Shi’a.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 9
ey also had a dierent class basis. While Bachtiar’s network was rooted in the urban
professional middle class, FPI brought in the urban poor, many of whom had good reasons for
disliking Ahok.36 Best known for its attacks on religious minorities and anti-vice raids, FPI played
a critical role in the 212 Movement in getting masses out on the streets. Rizieq Shihab, who had
already begun to be taken seriously as a political player, was now a potential kingmaker.37 e
high point may have been on the night of the Jakarta governor elections, when Anies Baswedan,
backed by Prabowo Subianto, was declared the winner and Prabowo publicly thanked FPI leader
Rizieq at the national Istiqlal Mosque. Without FPI’s role in the rallies and in the mosques, Anies
might not have won.
en, however, as part of a broader move against the 212 leaders, police brought criminal
charges against Rizieq in connection with an alleged sex scandal.38 Rizieq ed to Saudi Arabia
and the organisation was temporarily le rudderless. It remains unclear as of this writing when
or under what circumstances Rizieq will return and thus what impact his organisation will have
as the anti-Jokowi campaign moves into high gear.
A. FPI Background
FPI was founded on 17 August 1998, in the tumultuous months following the collapse of Suharto’s
32-year rule. Led by Rizieq Shihab and some 20 like-minded Jakarta ulama, it had close links
to the security forces from the beginning, with senior military and police ocers in attendance
at its founding ceremony. It quickly became part of the army-backed civilian militia known as
Pam Swakarsa (Voluntary Security Guards), formed to counter pro-reform demonstrators in
late 1998.39
Its early years were focused on raids on entertainment centres in close coordination with
the police, from whom it got both logistical and nancial support.40 It gradually became more
independent but still was on call as needed to provide security for demonstrations, trials or police
operations. Over time, as Islamist civil society organisations grew in political condence, FPI
joined various local forums and fronts to mobilise demonstrators to demand government action,
on everything from removing statues deemed oensive to Islam, to banning the Ahmadiyah sect,
to closing “unauthorised” churches, to stopping a Lady Gaga concert. While the FPI became
notorious for its thuggery and vandalism, it was also frequently involved in humanitarian eorts,
most notably in Aceh aer the devastating 2004 tsunami when its members performed a major
service in helping to remove and bury bodies. In Jakarta, its members were the rst to come to
the aid of villagers forcibly evicted by Ahok for a controversial land reclamation project.
Until the 212 movement, the police saw FPI as more friend than foe, despite occasional clashes
during demonstrations, and its services were particularly valued in the ght against terrorism.
36 Ian Wilson, “Making Enemies Out of Friends.”, 3 November 2016. But FPI also had strong supporters in
the educated middle class. See Mietzner, Muhtadi and Halida, op.cit., p.15.
37 Marcus Mietzner and Burhanuddin Muhtadi. “Explaining the 2016 Islamist Mobilisation in Indonesia: Religious
Intolerance, Militant Groups and the Politics of Accommodation, forthcoming.
38 Screenshots of Rizieq’s purported WhatsApp sex chats, including an exchange of nude images with a woman who was not
his wife, were leaked to the Internet. Also circulated was an audio recording of the woman’s phone conversation with her
female friend (who turned out to be the wife of FPI’s former head Muchsin Alatas), revealing in great detail her relationship
with Rizieq, including their sex chats and his empty promises to marry her. “Ini Rekaman Curhat Firza Husein tentang
Rizieq pada Kak Ema”,, 17 May 2017.
39 Ian Wilson, “Continuity and Change: e changing contours of organised violence in post-New Order Indonesia”, Critical
Asian Studies, 2006, Vol. 38, No. 2, pp. 265 - 297. Some of its founders intended FPI to be the youth wing of PPP, but aer
PPP established its own paramilitary wing, FPI “remodelled itself to become a street-level anti-vice movement. Verena
Beittinger-Lee, (Un) Civil Society and Political Change in Indonesia: A Contested Arena, (London, 2009).
40 Ian Wilson, “ ‘As Long as It’s Halal’: Islamic Preman in Jakarta”, in Greg Fealy and Virginia Hooker (eds.), Expressing Islam:
Religious Life and Politics in Indonesia, (Singapore, 2008), pp. 192-210.
10 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
In 2006, police sent Rizieq on a lecture tour of Poso, hoping that he could persuade local Muslim
youth to focus on battling vice rather than Christians. In 2016, police used FPI to help evict
pro-ISIS extremists from a mosque in Banten. e mass anti-Ahok rallies, however, changed the
relationship. FPI was no longer a mere civilian auxiliary paid to keep a crowd in order; together
with its 212 allies, it was now setting the agenda – the arrest and prosecution of Ahok – and
forcing the police to comply. at shi set the stage for the police moves against Rizieq.
B. Mass Base
No one knows how many members FPI actually has. Its leaders claim between seven and een
million across the country.41 A more realistic gure from 2014 was around 200,000 but the
organisation surely grew with the anti-Ahok campaign.42
FPI’s ulama have received less attention than its thugs. ey are drawn from three networks:
• Ba’alawi ustadz of Hadrami origin who oen assume the title of sayyid or habib (plural,
habaib), signifying descent from the Prophet Muhammad.
• former students of the late Sheik Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki, one of the most prominent
Saudi Su ulama; and
• graduates of conservative NU pesantrens in East Java who share FPI’s concern of
safeguarding ahlus sunnah wal jamaah (Aswaja), the traditionalist Sunni doctrine.43
Many in the above groups look askance at FPI tactics but nevertheless have been willing to
cooperate in defence of morality and orthodoxy.
FPI initially did not have many followers among the Ba‘alawi community. Rizieq’s recruits
were mostly younger, lesser-known sayyids trying to make a name for themselves. e more
senior sayyids reportedly doubted Rizieqs credentials for he was never formally educated in
Ba‘alawi-run schools.44 Even among the Jakarta habaib, Rizieq was not very popular until a common
interest in pressing the government to ban the Ahmadiyah sect brought them together around
2006. In 2010, Habib Abdurrahman Al-Habsyi of the Kwitang Islamic Centre, a well-known
centre of Tariqah Alawiyyah (the Ba’alawi Su path), signalled his reconciliation with Rizieq by
inviting him to a prestigious Maulid celebration. A similar reconciliation took place with Majelis
Rasulullah, another popular Tariqah Alawiyyah association that had originally distanced itself
41 In October 2013, FPI’s Deputy Secretary General Awid Masyhuri claimed that FPI had 15 million members in eighteen
provinces. A year later, FPI Chairman Muchsin Alatas gave a gure of 7 million members. “15 Juta Anggota FPI Siap Kerja
Sama dengan Kepala Daerah,, 25 October 2013; “Muchsin Alatas: Jumlah Kami Sudah 7 Juta, cnnindonesia.
com, 8 October 2014.
42 Ian Wilson, “Resisting Democracy: Front Pembela Islam and Indonesia’s 2014 Elections.ISEAS Perspective, 24 February
2014. Available on
43 Ahlussunnah wal Jama’ah (oen shortened in Indonesia as Aswaja) refers to the followers of the Prophet’s tradition and
collective. All Sunni groups claim to be Ahlussunnah wal Jama’ah because of a hadith that says that Muslims will be
divided into dierent groups and all will go astray except one: the true followers of ahlussunnah wal jama’ah. NU’s Aswaja
specically refers to the practice or knowledge of Islam as derived from the jurisprudence of four schools of thought
(madzhab) namely Shaf ’i, Hanbali, Hana, and Maliki, although in reality most NU people follow the Sha’i school. In
terms of creed, it adheres to the teachings of Abu Hasan al-Asy’ari (Ash’ariya) and Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (Maturidiyya);
and in terms of Susm and ethics, it follows Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali and Al-Juwaini Al-Baghdadi.
44 Chaider S. Bamualim, “Islamic Militancy and Resentment against Hadhramis in Post-Suharto Indonesia: A Case Study of
Habib Rizieq Syihab and His Islamic Defenders Front,Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 2011,
Volume 31, Number 2, pp. 267-281.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 11
from FPI because of its vigilantism.45
A shared respect for Sheik Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki brought FPI supporters together
with Nahdlatul Ulama in East Java, the latter’s traditional stronghold. Two well-known leaders
of NU’s conservative “Straight Path” faction (Garis Lurus), Ust. Luth Bashori from Malang
and Habib Abdurrahman bin Husain Bahlega Assegaf from Pasuruan, studied in Saudi Arabia
around the same time as Rizieq and attended al-Maliki’s school in Mecca.46 Luth, dubbed the
“Grand Imam” of NU Garis Lurus, is the advisor of FPI-East Java, while Habib Abdurrahman
is the imam.
Al-Maliki’s teachings on the need to preserve the purity of orthodox Sunni doctrine from
deviant” schools of thought have led some ultra-conservatives to invoke his name in their
passionate opposition to Wahhabism, secularism and Shi’ism.47 ese include several NU
teachers associated with the venerable Pesantren Sidogiri in Pasuruan, who now are associated
with Rizieq: Idrus Romli (a MIUMI member), Jurjiz Muzammil (head of FPI-Sumenep), and
Sarifuddin Surur (leader of an FPI aliate in Pamekasan).
us while the progressives of NU have frequently clashed with FPI, the latter’s points of
convergence with NU’s hardline wing are many.
C. FPI’s Political Goals
FPI’s slogan is “NKRI Bersyari’ah” or formal application of Islamic law within the unitary
Indonesian republic. It is committed to the restoration of the “Jakarta charter” that would oblige
Indonesian Muslims to obey Islamic law.48 Rizieq argues in his academic thesis that democracy
violates Pancasila, which he says is based on musyawarah (deliberation-based consensus
building). He also believes that Indonesia’s democracy has gone too far in terms of freedom
of religion, over-liberalisation of economy and decline of cultural values. In practice, however,
FPI has no problem participating in democracy to achieve short-term goals. It deploys tactics
ranging from high-level political lobbying to intimidation and vigilantism to get results.49
FPI has repeatedly formed alliances with political parties and candidates. In the 2009
presidential campaign, FPI supported Jusuf Kalla and his running mate Gen. Wiranto on the
grounds that they had agreed to support a ve-point program that included eradicating deviant
45 Majelis Rasulullah’s founder Habib Munzir al-Musawa had publicly expressed his disagreement with Rizieq. When a
student asked him about why habaib like himself were unwilling to unite with Rizieq’s group, he answered: “If what you
mean by uniting is justifying the opinion of vigilantism (main hakim sendiri), then it needs to be corrected.” Aer Habib
Munzir’s death in September 2013, Majelis Rasulullah was led by his brother, Habib Nabil al-Musawa, a long-time PKS
politician. e new leadership and Ahok’s ban on pengajian events at the National Monument, where Majelis Rasulullah
used to hold its agship program, explained its political turn. “Pandangan Habib Munzdir al-Musawa mengenai FPI., 12 May 2014; Ahmad Syarif Syechbubakr, “Meet the Habibs: the Yemen Connection in
Jakarta Politics,, 14 December 2017.
46 Rizieq was studying in Riyadh but he said he used to regularly visit Sheikh al-Maliki, reportedly because he was afraid of
being corrupted by Wahhabi teachings at his university. Rizieq initially wanted to move to Sheik al-Maliki’s school but the
Sheik reassured him that his faith was strong enough to resist Wahabism. Ibnu Umar Junior, Habib Rizieq Shihab: Singa
Allah dari Negeri Timur, (Jakarta, 2017), p. 58.
47 One example of an ultra-conservative student of al-Maliki’s is KH Najih bin Maimoen Zubair who wrote the book
Membongkar Kedok Liberal dalam Tubuh NU. In May 2010, the alumni of al-Maliki school in Indonesia formally established
the Hay’ah as-Shofwah al-Malikiyyah association, whose board includes KH Ali Karrar, a senior Madurese kiai who helped
instigate anti-Shi’a violence in 2011, has been involved in FPI activities, and facilitated the travel of hundreds of Madurese
to take part in Aksi Bela Islam. For more on Ali Karrar, see IPAC, “e anti-Shi’a Movement in Indonesia. Report No. 27,
27 April 2016. available on http://le.understandingconle/2016/04/IPAC_Report_27.pdf.
48 FPI claims that Indonesia had started out as an Islamic state, as shari’a was initially included in Pancasila, though it was later
dropped in the nal version of the 1945 Constitution. Al-Habib Muhammad Rizieq Husein Syihab, Pengaruh pancasila
terhadap penerapan syariah Islam di Indonesia, Masters thesis, Universiti Malaya, 2012, p. 2.
49 IPAC interview with FPI ocial, Jakarta, 28 February 2018.
12 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
sects and implementing sharia in full.50 In the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial race, FPI supported
the incumbents but only half-heartedly until it became clear that they could be beaten by Jokowi
and Ahok. Only then did FPI release a fatwa prohibiting Muslims from voting for non-Muslim
Rizieq argues that in the absence of an ideal Muslim candidate, the Islamic jurisprudence
principle of “the lesser of two evils” (akhau al-dhararain) must be applied.52 In the 2014
presidential race between Jokowi and Prabowo Subianto, for example, Prabowo was not seen
as ideal for two reasons. His party, Gerindra, had sponsored the Jokowi-Ahok ticket in the rst
place, and Prabowos brother and nancier, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, was a Christian who was
critical of FPI. On the other hand, Gerindra had stated in its manifesto that it would safeguard
the purity of Islam, a code phrase for abolishing “heretical” sects. e most important criterion,
Rizieq argued, was to choose someone whom the West and the secularists disliked most – and
that was Prabowo. e same rationale will likely lead to FPI’s backing for Prabowo, if he runs,
or other Gerindra candidates in 2019. On 21 March 2018, Gerindras Deputy Secretary General
met with Rizieq in Mecca to ask his blessing for Prabowo.53 Rizieq stated that while he has yet
to support Prabowo, he would support a Gerindra coalition with PKS and two other Islamic
Most of the other Islamist components of the 212 Movement were rooted solidly in the Muslim
middle class, with goals ranging from the short-term political goal of imprisoning Ahok to the
utopian aims of Hizbut Tahrir.
A. Wahdah Islamiyah
Of the other Islamist components in 212, Wahdah Islamiyah is one of the most important.
Headquartered in Jakarta, it has branches in 126 cities across Indonesias 34 provinces and as of
early 2018, it operated over 200 schools – and was steadily expanding.55 It also boasts an extensive
social service program, oen in cooperation with government agencies. A Sala organisation
with a Makassar base, Wahdah’s outlook is very similar to Bachtiar Nasir’s, not surprisingly
given the close ties between Bachtiar and Zaitun going back to their student days. It is relatively
inclusive and has tried to adapt its Sala practices to the local context, rejecting Arab-style robes
and turbans, for example, in favour of batik and peci, the fez worn by Indonesian Muslim men.
Wahdahs origins date back to 1988 when a group of Muhammadiyah students at Hasanuddin
University in Makassar splintered as Muhammadiyah capitulated to a Soeharto policy requiring
all organisations to accept the state ideology as their only ideological basis. Many Islamic
organisations were outraged. e students in Makassar founded the Fathul Mu’in Foundation,
initially modeled aer the Muslim Brotherhood.56 It later incorporated more Sala doctrines as
its founding members returned from studies in the Middle East in mid-1990s. Having gained
50 Michael Buehler, e Politics of Shari’a Law: Islamist Activists and the State in Democratizing Indonesia, (Cambridge, 2016),
p. 147.
51 Ken Miichi, “e Role of Religion and Ethnicity inJakarta’s 2012 GubernatorialElection, Journal Of Current Southeast
Asian Aairs, 2016, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 55-83.
52 “Wawancara Bersama Habib Rizieq Terkait Pilpres 2014”,, 23 June 2014.
53 “Rizieq Syihab Dukung Prabowo Maju Capres 2019”,, 22 March 2018.
54 “Rizieq Syihab Tak Pernah Menyebut Dukung Prabowo Subianto,, 29 March 2018.
55 See also Chris Chaplin, “Islam and Citizenship”,,
8 August 2017.
56 Chris Chaplin, “Global Sala Activism and Indonesian Islam,, 29 July 2016.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 13
a substantial following among university and high school students, the foundation changed its
name to Wahdah Islamiyah (Islamic Unity) to make it sound more universal. It became a full-
edged national mass organisation (ormas) in 2002.
Like Bachtiar’s network, Wahdah Islamiyah believes in non-violent social transformation
from below, through education and dakwah. Its past links to extremist groups were in the very
specic context of the communal conict in Poso, especially aer 2000, when some of its former
members joined a militia called Laskar Jundullah.57 Unlike the purist Salas, Wahdah has always
encouraged its members to vote in elections to prevent secularists from winning.58 While Zaitun
himself had been involved in anti-Ahok political movements since 2015, Wahdah Islamiyah only
joined the movement as an organisation following the blasphemy accusation.59 e Makassar
chapter of Wahdah was apparently wary of getting too involved in national politics and focused
its eorts, including organising anti-Ahok protests, on Makassar. It was the Jakarta headquarters
and Yogyakarta chapter that were mostly responsible for the 212 mobilisation, and they incurred
criticism from others in the organisation as a result.60
One consequence of the 212 movement was Wahdahs decision that it needed to formulate
clearer guidance for members regarding political matters. In early 2018, it created an “electoral
research unit” to assess and recommend political candidates to support in each election.61
B. Forum Umat Islam (FUI)
Muhammad Gatot Saptono alias Muhammad al-Khaththath (the Arabised version of “Gatot”)
has been a leading gure among Islamist activists for more than a decade. FUI, his organisation,
started out as a coalition of 30 Islamic organisations, with FPI and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI)
constituting its largest components.62 Khaththath was expelled from HTI in 2008, however, and
FUI shrunk thereaer to a much smaller group that oen piggybacks on FPI and constitutes a
vehicle for Khaththaths own political lobbying.63 Khaththath acts as the brains for FPI’s brawn,
providing the creative inspiration and strategy that FPI lacks. It was he, for example, who came
up with the concept of “NKRI Bersyar’iah” but it only took o aer Rizieq and another radical
57 According to Wahdah, the individuals in question were no longer members by the time they joined Laskar Jundullah. For
Wahdah’s clarication, see Wakhid Sugiyarto, “Al Wahdah Al Islamiyah: Radikalisme dan Komitmen Kebangsaan, Jurnal
Harmoni Kemenag, January-April 2013. Available on
58 Chaplin, op. cit.
59 In 2015, Zaitun supported the candidacy of Adhyaksa Dault, the former Minister of Youth and Sport, though Adhyaksa
could not get any political parties to support his nomination. In early 2016, Zaitun and Bachtiar formed a new political
platform whose sole purpose was to defeat Ahok (see Section V. B below).
60 “Wahdah Islamiyah Nyatakan Siap dalam DemoAhok 4 November, Ini Tuntutannya,, 1 November 2016;
IPAC interview with Chris Chaplin, London, 19 January 2018.
61 “Ketua Tim Kajian Elektoral Wahdah Islamiyah Hadiahkan Puisi untuk Agus AN”,, 1 March 2018.
62 Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) is a non-violent pro-caliphate advocacy group aliated to the global Hizb ut-Tahrir
(literally Party of Liberation) organisation. Established in 1982 as an Indonesian chapter of the transnational Hizbut Tahrir
movement, HTI grew from a campus dakwah group to a national ormas with branches in all 33 provinces and 300 out of
415 districts in Indonesia. For more on HTI, see Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, “Reviving the Caliphate: Hizbut
Tahrir and Its Mobilisation Strategy in Indonesia”. Terrorism and Political Violence, 2010, Vol. 22 No. 40, pp. 601-622.
63 Khaththath was sacked from HTI partly because he was involved in the Monas Incident of 1 June 2008, where an Islamist
mob clashed with pro-Ahmadiyah demonstrators and injured some human rights activists, hence violating HTI’s non-
violent principle. Most of his followers had remained in HTI; one former HTI member said that Khaththath only managed
to take two members of HTI with him when he le.
14 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
cleric, Abu Jibril, formally endorsed it at an FPI ceremony in 2012.64 He is not popular with
some in FPI who see him as an outsider who is neither Betawi nor a traditionalist scholar, even
though he came from an NU background. One ustadz close to Rizieq said Khaththath was not
as important as he made himself out to be:
He is like fried garlic; its tiny but always wants to be on top of every dish.65
Far from shunning participation in a democratic political system, he tried in 2014 to run as a
legislative candidate for the Crescent and Star Party (Partai Bulan Bintang, PBB), a small Islamist
party. To boost his prole, in January 2014 he set up the Forum for Shari’a Candidates (Forum
Caleg Syariah, FCS) with the blessing of Rizieq, who told his followers to choose from FCS’
shortlisted candidates.66 In the end, Khaththath lost, but he continued to act as FPI’s outreach to
In late January 2018, Khaththath and one FPI member replaced Bachtiar Nasir as the
executive leaders of GNPF on Rizieqs instructions. e friction was chiey triggered by the
rivalry between Khaththath and Rizieq on one side and Bachtiar on the other as well as their
disagreement over which candidates to support. On 12 March, Rizieq’s camp publicly criticised
Bachtiar’s leadership style as being “centralistic” and a “one-man show”, unilaterally ousted him
and changed the GNPF leadership system to a “collective collegial” one, with board members
taking turns as chairman and secretary-general.67
C. The Zikir Groups
Several well-known zikir groups also took part in the campaign to bring down Ahok. Su orders
(tarekat) have a long history in Indonesia’s rural traditionalist communities. But the resurgence
of a mega-zikir (zikir akbar) movement in the post-Suharto era has been an urban phenomenon
with high media exposure, oen led by educated intellectuals who replace the “other-worldly”
mysticism of traditional Susm with personal piety to cope with modern life.68 Many politicians
have taken advantage of existing majelis zikir to portray themselves as devout; some have even
created their own groups. Many of these gatherings have become vehicles for sustaining Islamist
activism through the elections in 2019.
One of the most signicant is Majelis Zikir az-Zikra, run by the media-savvy preacher, Ust
Arin Ilham. ousands of participants attend its monthly gathering at Masjid Az-Zikra, Sentul,
Bogor. Az-Zikra runs an exclusively Islamic residential complex in Bogor with 152 families (568
people) living under shari’a regulations.
Arin, once a modernist, came to Susm aer a near-death accident in 1997. His Islamist
tone has become more apparent over the years. Close to hardline gures such as Rizieq, Ba’asyir
and MMI leader Abu Jibril, he blames the West for spreading materialism and secularism in
64 Khaththath reportedly came up with the idea before he le HTI. He created it as a watered-down version of HTI’s vision of
a caliphate, believing that the idea of a caliphate was too foreign and confrontational for most Indonesians to accept, since
it seemed to challenge democracy and the nation state. Realising that he was not inuential enough to promote the term,
he asked Rizieq and another radical cleric, Abu Jibril to co-lead the NKRI Bersyariah movement. It was formally declared
on the 14th anniversary of FPI in September 2012. Fahlesa Munabari, “Reconciling Sharia with “Negara Kesatuan Republik
Indonesia”: e Ideology and Framing Strategies of the Indonesian Forum of Islamic Society (FUI)”, International Area
Studies Review, 2017, Vol 20, Issue 3, pp. 242 – 263.
65 IPAC interview with a prominent Betawi NU ustadz, Jakarta, November 2017.
66 “Habib Rizieq: Dukung Caleg Syariah Menangkan Islam 2014”,, 21 February 2014.
67 “Di Mekkah, Rizieq Bantah Isu Perpecahan GNPF”,,12 March 2018; IPAC phone interview with Ansufri
Sambo, 12 March 2018.
68 Julia Day Howell, “Revitalised Susm and the New Piety Movements in Islamic Southeast Asia”, in Bryan S.Turner and
Oscar Salemink (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia, (Abingdon, 2015), pp 276 – 292.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 15
Muslim countries and oers zikir as an antidote. In August 2015, Arin, Rizieq, and Abu Jibril
– along with MIUMI and various Betawi Muslim groups – tested their combined mobilisation
power in Parade Tauhid Jakarta, which saw over 100,000 people carrying Islamic banners in
what was an early test of anti-Ahok strength.69 en in January 2016, az-Zikra held a mass
gathering for Sunni unity at the huge Istiqlal Mosque with the Saudi cleric, Muhammad al-Ari,
a Sahwa sympathiser who exhorted Muslims to ght in Syria, as keynote speaker.70
Another major zikir movement that mobilised against Ahok was Majelis Zikir Nurussalam,
founded before the 2004 presidential election to help Yudhoyono burnish his religious
credentials. It set up branches in all provinces and most municipalities, oen headed by senior
retired army ocers or other former ocials, and by 2011, its leader claimed to have seven
million members, though it was unclear how he arrived at that gure.71 Yudhoyono was later
accused of using Nurussalam to help mobilise demonstrators for the 4 November 2016 rally in
order to help his sons candidacy; he vehemently denied the allegations.72
All of these dierent components came together in two Islamist blocs, one called the Jakarta
People’s Movement (Gerakan Masyarakat Jakarta, GMJ) driven by FPI and other Betawi-Muslim
groups and the other called Majelis Pelayan Jakarta (MPJ), initiated by Bachtiar Nasirs network.
Members of both groups had opposed Jokowi and Ahok since the Jakarta gubernatorial election
in 2012. ey had also supported Prabowo in his race against Jokowi in the highly polarised
2014 election.
A. The Jakarta People’s Movement (Gerakan Masyarakat Jakarta)
On 22 July 2014, the Indonesian General Election Commission ocially pronounced Jokowi
and Jusuf Kalla the new president and vice president. Prabowos loss was a blow to the Islamists,
not least because it meant that Ahok would replace Jokowi as governor. Ahok was seen not only
as a Christian but as a symbol of Chinese encroachment into politics, expanding what Islamists
regarded as the overwhelming domination of Chinese in the business sector.
On 24 September 2014, one week before Jokowi ocially resigned from the governorship, FPI
mobilised hundreds of people in its rst “Reject Ahok as Governor” demonstration in front of
the Jakarta city council.73 An anti-Ahok protest the same week by a huge urban gang organisation
called Betawi Brotherhood Forum (Forum Betawi Rempug, FBR) led the two to join forces.
69 Parade Tauhid was rst conducted by various Islamist militias in Solo as a reaction to a big Christian rally in April 2015 in
which 1,200 people, each carrying a massive cross, marching around the city. Parade Tauhid was then replicated in Jakarta
and other cities as a Muslim show of force.e Jakarta march was especially signicant to show Muslims’ resistance to the
Christian-Chinese governor perceived as trying to seize control of Indonesia through Jakarta. “Ketua MUI Serukan Umat
Islam dan Warga Betawi Berjihad Gantikan Gubernur Kar AHok!”,, 17 August 2015.
70 e gathering was called “Tabligh Akbar Ahlussunnah Indonesia Bersatu”. Also invited as speakers were Bachtiar Nasir,
Yusuf Baisa (another Indonesian Sala haraki gure), and Abdul Rasyid Abdullah Sya’i, a Betawi ulama who would work
closely with FPI in the anti-Ahok movement.
71 Ken Miichi,“Democratization and ‘Failure’ of Islamic Parties in Indonesia,” in Ken.Miichi, O.Farouk (eds.), Southeast
Asian Muslims in the Era of Globalization, (London, 2015), pp. 127-144. See also Nedy Sugianto, “Peran Majelis
DzikirSBYNurussalamdalam Mendukung Pemerintahan Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono”. Undergraduate thesis, Institut
Agama Islam Negeri Wali Songo, 2013.
72 In 2014, Nurussalam leader Utun Tarunadjaja attended the inaugural event of the Jakarta People’s Movement, and the
picture of Habib Abdurrahman Al-Habsyi Kwitang, Nurussalams highest spiritual leader, appeared in all the movement’s
yers. In addition, Ahok’s lawyer claimed to have a record of Yudhoyono’s phone conversation with MUI chairman Makruf
Amin in which he ordered the fatwa. “SBY Benarkan Menelepon Ma`ruf Amin, Bicarakan Agus-Sylvi,, 1
February 2017.
16 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
e ocial merger into Gerakan Masyarakat Jakarta Tolak Ahok (shortened as GMJ) was
announced on 14 October 2014 by FPI, FBR and other Betawi groups. GMJ’s stated goal was
to bring Ahok down through constitutional means.74 It began organising monthly protests, and
other groups of political activists gradually joined in.75
Ahok at the time had an approval rating hovering at around 60 per cent; many saw him as
having the toughness needed to run the city.76 ey were impressed by his blunt style in managing
bureaucratic reform, his handling of the city’s notorious trac congestion, and reclaiming the
city’s public space by uprooting street vendors and slum dwellers.
But many Jakarta ulama were angered by other policies such as banning certain mass Muslim
activities from taking place in the streets such as pengajian; takbiran (the chanting of takbir or
“God is great” on the eve of the Idul Fitri holiday); and the ritual slaughter of animals (qurban)
on the Muslim feast of sacrice (Idul Adha), all of which were staples of Jakartan traditional
Muslim life. FPIs Rizieq dely manipulated that anger. Working with a major Betawi kiai, Abdul
Rasyid Abdullah Sya’i, he convened the rst Ulama and Habaib Conference on 22 October
2015 to discuss the upcoming election. Taking part were some of the most inuential Betawi
ulama in the greater Jakarta area who collectively control hundreds – if not thousands – of
majelis taklim and Islamic schools.77 ey agreed among other things to use Friday sermons for
a “massive” campaign about the obligation of all Muslims to vote for a Muslim leader.78 ese
campaigns later would prove highly eective in mobilising voters.
B. Council of Jakarta Assistants (Majelis Pelayan Jakarta)
MPJ, inaugurated on 10 June 2016 at Masjid Al-Azhar Jakarta, was a MIUMI eort to put
together a coalition to support an Islamic candidate for the Jakarta election.79 Its top council was
led by four gures: Bachtiar Nasir; Zaitun Rasmin; Didin Hadhudin, a former PKS politician;
and Lut Fathullah, an NU-Jakarta gure and Gontor graduate.
Rizieq apparently felt oended that Bachtiar and his colleagues did not consult him before
setting up MPJ but they joined forces anyway. On 19 July, MPJ and GMJ held a joint press
conference at the Sunda Kelapa Mosque in central Jakarta announcing that they would work
together to ensure a Muslim governor. On 18 September, the two coalitions plus HTI, which
had just mounted its own anti-Ahok rally on 4 September, held a tabligh akbar at the Istiqlal
Mosque attended by thousands. e meeting produced the Istiqlal Manifesto (Risalah Istiqlal)
that called on all political parties outside the PDIP-led coalition backing Ahok to agree on just
one Muslim slate. e organisations then merged into a new group called the Guardians of the
Istiqlal Manifesto (Pengawal Risalah Istiqlal or Perisai for short).
e next move was to approach the two major parties that were still undecided about their
candidates: Gerindra and Partai Demokrat. Aer an unsuccessful eort on the part of Bachtiar
Nasir, al-Khaththath, FPI’s Shobri Lubis, and HTIs Ismail Yusanto to persuade Yudhoyono to
74 Allahu Akbar!! Ulama Betawi Kumpul Bentuk Gerakan Masyarakat Jakarta,, 14 October 2014.
75 e groups included some ex-members of the short-lived Partai Persatuan Demokrasi Kebangsaan(PPDK) and Progress
98, a secular-nationalist group that emerged in 2014 as Prabowo backers.
76 “Kepuasan Masyarakat terhadap Kepemimpinan Ahok Meningkat”,, 12 December 2015.
77 e ulama included KH Mahfudz Asirun, the supreme council chairman (rois syuriah) of NU-Jakarta and other NU kiais
from Forum Ulama dan Habaib Betawi (FUHAB), a loose network of clerics who control hundreds of majelis taklim,
pesantrens and mosques in Greater Jakarta area.
78 “Muzakarah Ulama dan Habaib untuk Jakarta Bersyariah”,, 23 November 2015.
79 Before the 2014 presidential vote, Bachtiar and then MUI chairman Din Syamsudin had tried and failed to put together an
Islamic party coalition to promote a candidate to rival Jokowi. is episode added to his disappointment of Islamist parties
and triggered his decision to temporarily get involved in practical politics. “Koalisi Partai Islam Bertekad Gabungkan Poros
Tengah”,, 17 April 2014.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 17
partner with Gerindra, Partai Demokrat registered Yudhoyonos eldest son, Agus,while Gerindra
and PKS ocially registered Anies Baswedan. MPJ and GMJ initially told their followers to
choose either candidate, although they were more inclined to the Gerindra slate.80
As the campaign season ocially started, Ahoks opponents were waiting for him to make
a controversial remark that they could spin to their advantage. e opportunity came on 27
September 2016 when Ahok made the speech in Pulau Seribu referring to Surat al-Maidah,
which sparked the huge rallies and deeply shook the Jokowi government.
e Jokowi government was blindsided by the size of the 212 rally. Ocials had underestimated
the size of the crowds that would turn up, but well understood its political impact once they
did -- particularly when Anies Baswedan won the governorship by a landslide in the April 2017
election. If the government did not manage to undercut the movement that the Islamists and
their political backers had set in motion, it could become a destabilising force, with the capital
rendered impassable and the government held hostage to whatever the masses would demand
next. It could also weaken Jokowi’s chances for a second term, despite his popularity, if the same
kind of campaign could be mounted against him in 2019.
It was clear that he needed to bolster his support in the conservative Muslim community.
at meant, most immediately, sacricing Ahok. On 9 May 2017, a Jakarta court sentenced
Ahok to two years’ imprisonment, taking the immediate rationale for further mobilising o the
table. e government then began to look for ways to undermine the leaders of the movement
while accommodating some of their concerns.81 It chose to move against the leaders and
partially succeeded. But the tactical alliance against Ahok of Bachtiar’s Sala harakis and Rizieq’s
traditionalists was always strained, and eventually it weakened more from its own internal
contradictions than from government intervention.
A. “Criminalisation” of Ulama
e police moved to bring charges against some of those involved in the 212 rally. One result
was the sharp deterioration of the Islamists’ relationship with the police. FPI in particular
increasingly identied the police as the enemy and the military as their friend.82
80 Islamist leaders personally felt more welcome by Prabowo’s camp than Yudhoyono’s because the latter was seen as preferring
Muslim moderates to hardliners. Prabowo, on the other hand, always made sure to invite MPJ and FPI gures to Gerindra
meetings. During the campaign season, Gerindra’s political consultant Eep Saefulloh had come to MPJ headquarters to
formulate strategies at least ve times, Anies three times, Sandiaga six times. SBY only visited MPJ once, although SBY’s
biographer and former party cadre, Usamah Hisyam, has developed close ties to al-Khaththath and allegedly became the
connector between both sides. IPAC interviews with MPJ members, November-December 2017.
81 See Mietzner et al, op.cit, for discussion of how the Jokowi government used the combination of accommodation and
repression in its response to 212.
82 FPI was now seen as not only endangering Jokowi government but also the police as an institution. e heightening
tension between FPI and the police started on 12 January 2017 when Rizieq went to the West Java police department for
questioning regarding a report led by Megawati’s sister, Sukmawati, about Rizieq’s alleged defamation of Sukarno and
Pancasila in an old sermon that was uploaded on to YouTube. ousands of FPI militias escorted Rizieq outside the West
Java police oce. An anti-FPI mob from Gerakan Masyarakat Bawah Indonesia (GMBI) also gathered there, and the two
groups clashed. On 19 January, FPI held a massive protest at the national police headquarters in Jakarta demanding the
removal of West Jakarta police chief, Anton Charliyan who turned out to be GMBI leader. en FPI also asked the national
police commander to remove Jakarta police chief Iriawan whom FPI blamed for provoking the clash between FPI and HMI
during the November 2016 rally. See “Kapolri Tidak Akan Temui Massa FPI yang Demo Mabes Polri Besok”, tribunnews.
con, 15 January 2017.
18 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
First to be detained were eleven secular activists, charged with treason for allegedly trying
to divert the 212 protestors to occupy the parliament. One was Firza Husein, head of the
Suhartos family-linked Cendana Family Solidarity Foundation (Yayasan Solidaritas Keluarga
Cendana). On 28 January 2017, documents emerged online, suggesting that Rizieq and Firza
were having an aair. Aer FPI opponents led a criminal report against the two, who denied
any relationship, police opened an investigation into Rizieq on pornography charges, and in
late April 2017, Rizieq and his entire family le for Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to make for umrah
pilgrimage (sometimes called the “little haj”). ey stayed on in self-imposed exile.
en in June, Bachtiar was investigated for terrorist nancing and money laundering,
but neither allegation held up to scrutiny.83 As Rizieq and Bachtiar were being investigated,
Khaththath took over as the lead organiser of yet another rally on 31 March 2017, known as Aksi
313, to demand Ahoks immediate arrest. But the FUI head was arrested in his hotel room a few
hours before the rally started for attempted rebellion (makar). Police cited documents found in
Khaththath’s car that allegedly outlined an elaborate plot to topple Jokowi aer Ahok had been
brought down.84 He was detained on 1 April and was released on 12 July.85 For Hizbut Tahrir, the
government had a dierent solution: a total organisational ban. What it produced instead was a
broadly worded law that nowhere mentions Hizbut Tahrir by name and seems to resurrect the
language of old Soeharto-era tools to punish dissent.
B. The Ban on Hizbut Tahrir
On 8 May 2017, a day before the Ahok verdict was handed down, Coordinating Minister for
Political, Legal and Security Aairs Wiranto announced a government decision to ban HTI. e
government subsequently proposed an emergency decree on mass organisations (known by its
Indonesian acronym as PERPPU Ormas) that would give the minister of law and human rights
the authority to disband any organisation it deems opposed to Pancasila and the Indonesian
republic.86 e decree was subsequently adopted into law on 24 October 2017.
Indonesian police and intelligence agencies had long been concerned about the rapid expansion
of HTI and its alleged inltration of the military and government.87 But HTI had secured formal
registration as a mass organisation without diculty in 2014. What had changed? Clearly its
participation in the anti-Ahok rallies, where HTI had brought in thousands of well-disciplined
members from across the country, waving HTI’s black ags. One organisation that was horried
by the sight was Nahdlatul Ulama, which had seen HTI systematically encroach on its East
83 e television channel Euronews broadcast a video in late January 2017 showing boxes of aid from Indonesian
Humanitarian Relief (IHR) in a storage facility operated by Jaish al-Islam, a predominantly sala rebel group. For the
video, see Bachtiar had helped establish IHR in June 2016. e group
strongly denied any link to terrorism and said that all its aid was channelled through the Turkish relief organisation IHH.
en in February, Bachtiar was questioned about diverting funds amounting to Rp 6 billion ($ 420,000) raised by GNPF for
the rallies. It turned out that he had used the bank account of another charitable foundation owned by a MIUMI member
to receive donations for GNPF, which was a breach of the Social Organisation Law but did not necessarily constitute money
laundering. In addition, all the money trail pointed to individuals around Bachtiar but not Bachtiar himself. “Kapolri Sebut
Ketua Yayasan Keadilan untuk Semua Jadi Tersangka”,, 22 February 2017.
84 “Polisi Kumpulkan Bukti Dokumen Dugaan Kasus Makar”,, 3 April 2017.
85 “Polisi Tangguhkan Penahanan Tersangka Makar Al-Khaththath,, 12 July 2017.
86 PERPPU Ormas is the Indonesian acronym for “Regulation in Lieu of Legislation on Mass Organisations”. A PERPPU
is in eect a decree that the President may issue in emergency circumstances but to become law, it must be endorsed by
the national parliament within its next sitting period. For a discuss of this decree, see Usman Hamid and Liam Gammon,
“Jokowi Forges Tool for Repression,, 13 July 2017.
87 A leaked military intelligence report from 2010 warned of the danger it posed; the former head of the State Intelligence
Unit (BIN) and NU gure As’ad Ali claimed in May 2017 that he had a list of names of civil servants, military and police
ocers and retired ocials who sympathised with HTI. Coki Lubis, “Saat HTI Pikat Mantan Prajurit”,,
22 May 2017.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 19
Java stronghold.88 NU wanted HTI banned. In issuing the decree, Jokowi could strengthen his
support from NU and at the same time take a stand in defence of Indonesian nationalism. With
NU and Muhammadiyah strongly behind the HTI ban, the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI)
on 30 October announced its support.89
As of this writing, HTI was pursuing a legal challenge against the new law and was continuing
its dakwah activities as usual, minus the banners.90
ree factors contributed to the Islamist friction: old ghts over religious and theological
practices, personal rivalries and pragmatic choices over candidate selection. Most importantly,
Rizieq’s move to Saudi Arabia weakened FPI. No one else in the organisation could come close
in terms of charisma, and eorts to try and portray Rizieq as an Indonesian Khomeini, forced
into exile by a repressive government, have also not gained much traction. Rizieq’s declining
status gave way to Bachtiar’s rising stardom, leading to bitter competition between the two. His
departure also fractured the 212 coalition. Rizieq’s traditionalist supporters never fully trusted
Bachtiar Nasir because of his Sala background, and some Betawi ulama suggested he was just
using them to pursue his own goals.91 In Rizieq’s absence, that mistrust deepened. It is Bachtiar
Nasir’s camp that could be much more signicant in the long term: it has succeeded in leveraging
the 212 legacy to expand its support base beyond the sala constituency, and by keeping a safe
distance from practical politics aer Aksi Bela Islam was over, it has been able to portray itself
as the true champion of Islam.
A. FPI Squabbles
Even before Rizieq went into exile, the FPI leadership began to be pulled into dierent factions
as dierent ulama vied for recognition and found rival political backers. e squabbling grew
worse aer Rizieq’s departure, though all came together for a massive show of force in the “212
88 HTI recruiters not only target NU lay members but also kiais and female ulama in East Java by repeatedly coming to their
houses to convince them to join. In early 2016 HTI even tried to hold its national congress in Jombang, the birthplace of
NU, but it met massive resistance and eventually had to cancel the event. (“Batalkan Muktamar, Hizbut Tahrir Jombang
Hindari Konik,, 1 May 2016). In April 2017, Ansor, working with local police and various civil society groups,
mobilised mass demonstrations to ban and halt HTI events in Makassar, Semarang, Surabaya, Bandung, and Kupang; anti-
HTI protests were staged by student groups in other places as well. (“Deretan Aksi Bubarkan HTI di Indonesia, kumparan.
com, 8 May 2017).
89 e Jokowi government used the opportunity to straighten out its previously strained relationship with MUI over government
funding by giving a new position to MUI Chairman Ma’ruf Amin in the new Presidential Taskforce for Pancasila Education
(Unit Kerja Presiden Pembinaan Ideologi Pancasila) inaugurated on 27 June 2017. Jokowi also founded a new majelis zikir
called Hubbul Wathan (Love of the Motherland) to be led by Ma’ruf Amin and his conservative NU colleagues.
90 Police spokesperson Irjen Setyo Wasisto has interpreted the Perppu as outlawing HTI symbols and mass demonstrations,
not necessarily its dakwah activities, especially if they are held on HTI premises. Most of HTI’s schools such as STEI
Hamfara in Yogyakarta do not bear the organisation’s name and are therefore barely aected by the law. Similarly, HTI
ustadzs can give lectures at various state schools, institutions and private companies without identifying themselves as
such. As of early 2018, HTI’s weekly newsletters were still being circulated in East Java and other areas with a new title.
“HTI Dibubarkan, Ini Kegiatan yang Masih Diperbolehkan Oleh Polisi,, 20 July 2017.
91 IPAC interview with a renowned Betawi ustadz, Jakarta, November 2017. A story was spread among Betawian 212
sympathisers that Bachtiar had prevented a senior Betawi ulama from meeting with Jusuf Kalla during the 4 November
protest and taken the opportunity for himself and Zaitun. eir suspicion increased when Bachtiar, Z aitun and the remaining
GNPF board were invited to meet with Jokowi on 28 July 2017 and purportedly secured some concessions, including the
much-needed license for Bachtiar Nasir’s newly established university. Jokowi also told the GNPF representatives that as
part of his ummah-oriented economic program, he was going to redistribute 12.7 million hectares of land currently used
by private companies to various pesantrens. “Makna Politik GNPF Bertemu Jokowi”,, 26 June 2017.
20 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
Reunion” gathering on 2 December 2017.92
Aer Rizieq’s departure, several gures from GMJ and FPI competed to have his ear and to
be his second in command. One of the rst splits came over Presidium 212, a group set up in
April 2017 to mobilise volunteers to “safeguard” the Jakarta election. e Presidium included
both FPI and non-FPI elements.93 It was led by two non-FPI Prabowo supporters: Habib Umar
al-Hamid, a Hadrami businessman and former GMJ leader and Ansufri Sambo, the former
“spiritual teacher” of Prabowo and an aspiring politician.94 Sambo had the idea for a Tamasya al-
Maidah (Al-Maidah Festival) that would bring 100,000 alumni to Jakarta as election monitoring
volunteers. It failed when, a day before the election, the police and Election Monitoring Agency
(Bawaslu) issued a joint decree to prohibit all forms of mass mobilisation that could intimidate
voters.95 He then alienated many of the FPI ulama when in July 2017, he organised a “long
march” to the National Human Rights Commission to support ethnic Chinese media mogul
and politician Hary Tanoe – who had very little to do with Muslim goals or concerns.96 At that
point, Rizieq stepped in, sacked Sambo and replaced him with FPI spokesman Slamet Ma’arif.
e Presidium was now more purely FPI, though some outsiders, like al-Khaththath, were still
Later on, the Presidium was divided over which candidates to support and whether the
ulama should express their support publicly or through behind-the-scenes lobbying. As 2018
regional elections approached, the Presidium intended to “copy paste” the success in bringing
down Ahok to other areas by working with Gerindra, PKS, and PAN in support of Muslim
candidates.97 e rst test case was in East Java, where the Presidium was trying to help one
gubernatorial hopeful, La Nyalla Mahmud Mattalitti, win Gerindra backing. Khaththath had
facilitated La Nyalla’s meeting with Prabowo in November 2017 and continued to lobby on his
behalf. In January 2018, Gerindra made the shocking decision to support not La Nyalla but
PDIP’s candidates in East Java. Embittered, Khaththath held a joint press conference with La
Nyalla, in which he condemned Gerindra’s betrayal and said the ulama had never given Gerindra
a blank cheque”.98 He also claimed that in fact, Rizieq had specically asked in September 2017,
when Khaththath met him in Mecca, that in exchange for ulama support, Gerindra support
the Presidium’s chosen candidates in East Java and four other regions – all of which Gerindra
rejected.99 La Nyalla claimed that Gerindra dropped him because he failed to pay a “political
92 e Reunion, attended by some 30,000 people, was controlled by Rizieq’s condantes, namely Misbahul Anam (FPI co-
founder), Slamet Ma’arif (FPI spokesperson), and Khaththath. Bachtiar Nasir and Zaitun Rasmin received little attention.
e former arrived at the venue very late and had little opportunity to speak. In contrast, both men dominated the Action
to Defend Palestine rally held two weeks later on 17 December 2017 with the support of MUI. Zaitun served as deputy
chair of MUI’s foreign relations committee.
93 e non-FPI elements include the Indonesian Martyrs Forum (Forum Syuhada Indonesia, FSI), the group that sought to
conduct a sweeping of illegal Chinese workers; and former activists of the Indonesian Islamic Student Movement (Gerakan
Pemuda Islam Indonesia, GPII). GPII was historically aliated with Masyumi party, but since Reformasi era its activists
have been involved in various parties such as PBB and PPP. “Forum Syuhada Indonesia Akan Sweeping WNA Ilegal,
Terutama WN Cina”,, 16 December 2016.
94 “Prol Ustadz Sambo, “Guru Spiritual” Prabowo: Jalan Panhang Menuju Kursi Presiden”,, 9 August 2017. Umar al-
Hamid was involved in GMJ. Prior to that, he led a pro-Prabowo organisation called Nation-Loving Generation (Generasi
Cinta Negeri or Gentari) that organised various campaign roadshows for Prabowo during the 2014 election. Sambo tried
vainly to run as independent presidential candidate in 2014.
95 is was an indication that the police were prepared to take a much tougher stance on Islamist rallies when they had the
legal tools to do so.
96 Hary Tanoe was reported to the Human Rights Commission for alleged rights abuse as one of his media companies laid o
some 300 workers in 2017. Sambo organised the Action to Defend Hari Tanoe, saying that the accusation against Tanoe was
fabricated by Ahok’s political backers because Tanoes party had supported Anies-Sandi in the Jakarta election. “Alumni
212: Kar yang Didzalimi Kami Bela,, 14 July 2017.
97 “Pernyataan Lengkap Al-Khaththath Soal La Nyalla dan Semangat 212”, 12 January 2018.
98 Ibid.
99 Ibid.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 21
dowry” of Rp 40 billion ($ 2.92 million).100
e La Nyalla case is a good example of how practical politics drew Islamists in dierent
directions. On the one hand, Rizieq reprimanded Khaththath for his poor handling of the
La Nyalla case because the failure to secure Gerindra backing caused FPI deep embarrassment;
the FPI leadership also criticised Khaththath for making the case public as it could strengthen
rumours of FPI’s political transactions with candidates. On the other hand, Rizieq decided to
keep working with Gerindra, PKS, and PAN and called on his supporters to not vote for “parties
that had supported the religious blasphemer and the social organisations decree.101 e long-
term game was still to bring down Jokowi and an FPI-Gerindra partnership was essential.
West Java was a very dierent case. FPI and other Islamist groups wanted current West
Java Vice Governor Dedy Mizwar, known for his piety and commitment to Islam, as the
gubernatorial candidate. ey had planned to adopt some elements of anti-Ahok campaign by
framing Dedy Mizwar’s two rivals as anti-Islam: Purwakarta mayor Dedi Mulyadi, a known
champion of minority rights and Sundanese culture; and Bandung mayor Ridwan Kamil whom
the Islamists accused of supporting Meikarta, the mega property development project funded by
Chinese investors. Posters denigrating Ridwan as a diehard Ahok supporter and Dedi Mulyadi
as Christian defender were circulated among 212 alumni social media groups.102 Dedy Mizwar
seemed to get closer to PKS in October 2017. In November, he was courting Bachtiar Nasir and
other Islamist leaders for endorsement, though also looking for support from the big secular
On 27 December 2017, however, aer he reportedly signed a political agreement with Partai
Demokrat agreeing to support its presidential candidate in 2019 without knowing who that
candidate would be, PKS and PAN withdrew support; so did FPI.103 Dedy Mizwar eventually
partnered with Rizieq’s enemy, the liberal Dedi Mulyadi. Ridwan Kamil chose Tasikmalaya
mayor Uu Ruzhanul Ulum, who had strong Islamic credentials and had sent medical volunteers
to Aksi Bela Islam rallies.104 ese mixed slates completely undercut FPI’s eorts to pit Islamist
candidates against those who could be portrayed as anti-Islam. FPI then shied support to
the Gerindra candidate with no mass base and little chance of winning, retired army general
Sudrajat. FPI and the Presidium got their fallback candidate to commit to Islamist-friendly
policies in writing, though the negotiation was done covertly to avoid public embarrassment if
it failed.105
Meanwhile, the Habib Umar faction of the Presidium decided it was better to be practical
than overly principled. e important goal was not the formal application of shari’ah; it was
simply to ensure that only Muslims governed Muslims. In East Java, for example, it was clear
that the Presidium would only succeed in its goals if it had the support of the Nahdlatul Ulama-
dominated party, PKB, so it was important not to alienate it, even though in Jakarta, its members
had supported Ahok. One member said:
We initially wanted to test how obedient those parties were to the ulama, turned out
100 “Geger Mahar Miliaran Loyalis La Nyalla Mundur dari Gerindra,, 15 January 2018.
101 IPAC interview with an ocial of FPI headquarters, Jakarta, 28 February 2018.
102 “Ridwan Kamil Protes Dicatut Dalam Meme Ahok,, 13 October 2016.
103 “Ini Alasan PKS Tarik Dukungan ke Deddy Mizwar dan Bergabung dengan Gerindra,, 29 December
104 Uu Ruzhanul Ulum is also related to Pesantren Miahul Huda whose students famously walked from Ciamis to Jakarta to
join Aksi Bela Islam protests.
105 IPAC interview with FPI ocial, 28 February 2018. Before shiing its support from Dedy Mizwar to the Gerindra candidate,
FPI apparently asked the latter to sign a 17-point contract. e point included rejecting the Meikarta project, a $1-billion
industrial project developed by Lippo Group in partnership with Chinese and Japanese investors. “Indonesia’s Lippo Group
to Build $21-billion Industrial Centre Near Jakarta”,, 5 May 2017.
22 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
they disobeyed. Ultimately it taught us that theres no black and white in politics…but
oen only grey.106
He said he and his associates in the Presidium wanted Muslims to be given their “proportional
place…so if 90 per cent of the people are Muslims then they must control 90 per cent of
government oces. eir policies must also bring material and moral benets to the Muslim
majority.107 FPI purists criticised Habib Umar’s faction as opportunistic, siding with whoever
could give them more benets.108
In January 2018 the purists, led by Slamet Maarif, took over the Presidium from Habib Umar
and unilaterally changed its name to the Brotherhood of 212 Alumni (Persaudaraan Alumni
212). ey accused the deposed Presidium leaders of disobeying Rizieq’s commands, for
example by organising separate events at the same time as FPI ones.109 Meanwhile Presidium
members criticised Slamet for his lack of transparency in nancial matters and insisted that
Rizieq had chosen the wrong condantes.110 Slamet responded that the Presidium had been
dissolved on Rizieq’s order and that Rizieq had entrusted him (Slamet), along with FPI co-
founder and Rizieqs close friend Misbahul Anam, to establish the new alumni organisation.111
Meanwhile Ansufri Sambo set up yet another faction called Garda 212 with an explicit goal
to become a political broker in the 2019 legislative elections by selecting Muslim candidates and
then promoting them to Gerindra, PAN, PKS and PBB as having Islamist endorsement.
B. Khaththath and Gerakan Indonesia Sholat Subuh (GISS)
Kaththath, as usual, had his own agenda. He established a new alliance, Indonesian Movement
for Dawn Prayers (Gerakan Indonesia Sholat Subuh, GISS) when he was released from detention
in July 2017. According to GISS’s founder, the aim was to create a mosque network to support
Islamist political candidates and cultivate future leaders using dawn prayers as the mechanism
for mobilising the pious.112 In each member mosque, GISS would form a Laskar Masjid or
mosque militia that would go around knocking on doors, getting people up for prayers and
monitoring their mosque attendance.113
His partner in this enterprise was Usamah Hisyam, Yudhoyonos biographer and a former
Partai Demokrat politician who in early 2018 was heading Partai Muslimin Indonesia (Parmusi),
the former political party-turned-social organisation.114 Usamah and others had provided the
guarantees necessary to secure al-Khaththaths release from detention.
Khaththath used FPI’s nineteenth anniversary on 19 August 2017 to launch GISS and made
use of FPI networks in Madura, Kalimantan, and other parts of Indonesia to organise local
branches.115 As usual, he made sure to draw in prominent politicians. Prabowo and Amien
Rais attended the inaugural ceremony in Yogyakarta in November 2017; La Nyalla came from
106 IPAC interview with the spokesman of Presidium 212, 15 February 2018.
107 IPAC interview with members of Presidium 212, 15 February 2018.
108 IPAC interview with FPI ocial, 28 February 2018.
109 Ibid.
110 IPAC interviews with members of Forum Syuhada Indonesia and Presidium Alumni 212, February 2018.
111 “Ketua Persaudaraan Alumni 212 Bantah Ada Perpecahan”,, 30 January 2018.
112 “GISS Lahirkan Pemimpin dari Masjid”,, 25 September 2017.
113 “Gerakan Sholat Subuh Berjamaah Dideklarasikan”,, 11 October 2017.
114 Parmusi was one of the Islamic parties that Soeharto merged into PPP in 1973 though aer Reformasi, it chose to remain
as a mass organisation rather than establishing its own political party. Parmusi cadres have been involved in various parties
outside PPP.
115 Al-Khaththath Deklarasikan Gerakan Salat Subuh di Milad FPI”,, 19 August 2017.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 23
Surabaya.116 In Cirebon, Dede Hermawan, the Gerindra mayoral candidate, volunteered to
become GISS’ Cirebon branch leader and organise the rst GISS event in Cirebon in December.117
On Christmas Day 2017, GISS organised dawn prayers in Bogor attended by Prabowo; Sudrajat
and Syaikhu, Gerindra’s slate for the West Java governor’s race; and Bogor mayor Bima Arya,
who was running for re-election. Like many Khaththath-organised events, these rallies were an
eort to tell politicians “You need us: what’s your best oer?”
C. Bachtiar Nasir and the Sala-inspired Networks
Bachtiar Nasir, Zaitun Rasmin and many 212 alumni in their networks had bigger goals than
prosecuting Ahok or backing particular political candidates. ey wanted to make Muslims
the dominant force in all walks of life, including the economic sector. eir code phrase was
“income inequality” designating both the problem they wanted to address and implying the
ethnic Chinese were the source of the problem. Bachtiar Nasir stated in May 2017 that his
priority was to address the wide economic gap between pribumi (native Indonesians) and ethnic
Chinese who make up around 1.2 per cent of the population but control two-thirds of Indonesia’s
private economy.118
e Chinese vs. pribumi narrative will likely be used against Jokowi, who has actively sought
Chinese investments to fund his ambitious infrastructure projects. Jokowi met with Chinas
leader Xi Jinping ve times in the rst two years of his presidency, strengthening rumours
in the hardline community, totally unfounded, about his coming from a communist Chinese
family.119 As of 2018, China became the No. 2 foreign investor in Indonesia, aer Singapore,
with an increased presence of Chinese companies in various sectors from infrastructure to
mining and plantations.120 is development has sparked fear-mongering, not just of economic
dependency but about the potential of Chinese workers to become a new h column, spreading
Communism.121 In December 2016, a hoax about the arrival of 10 million Chinese workers
went viral; and the Indonesian Martyrs Forum (Forum Syuhada Indonesia), an element within
Presidium 212, announced a plan to conduct a “sweeping of illegal Chinese workers.122 e police
swily investigated the source of the hoax, and the ministry of law and human rights refuted it
by giving its own data of 31,000 registered Chinese workers, all reportedly with temporary work
permits.123 Nevertheless, the hoax triggered a move by Islamist leaders to create a new pribumi
economic movement.
e idea of turning the anti-Ahok masses into a collective economic force (ekonomi berjamaah)
so that Muslims would buy only from Muslim businesses emerged even before the 2 December
2016 rally. e concept had several components. One was a cooperative that would help members
increase their incomes. On 20 January 2017, Bachtiar and Zaitun launched Kooperasi Shari’a
212 (KS212) with the famous Chinese Muslim convert-turned-Islamic economy expert Sya’i
Antonio as the director.
Some 18,000 people signed up in the rst few months, eager to be part of the new initiative.
Most were interested in the retail franchise called “212 Mart”, a chain of minimarkets that
required each shop to be co-owned by at least 100 Muslim investors. As of March 2018, the new
116 “La Nyalla Subuh Berjamaah Bareng Prabowo dan Amien Rais”, beritajatim,com. 13 November 2017.
117 Amin Rais, Cagub Sudrajat, dan Jamaah GSB Kumpul di At-Taqwa Centre”,, 25 December 2017.
118 “Exclusive: Indonesian Islamist Leader Says Ethnic Chinese is Next Target”,, 12 May 2017.
119 For a sample of the hoax, see “Ridwan Saidi: Bapaknya Jokowi Bernama Oey Hong Liong”,, 20 May 2014.
120 “China Becomes Indonesia’s No. 2 Investor with Infrastructure Drive, Nikkei Asian Review, 1 February 2018.
121 Rudi Agung, “Impor Pekerja Cina, Komunisme, dan Ancaman Kerapuhan Sosial”,, 19 July 2016.
122 “Forum Syuhada Indonesia Akan Sweeping WNA Ilegal, Terutama WN Cina”,, 16 December 2016.
123 “Menkum HAM: berita Tenaga Kerja China Hoax”,, 29 December 2016.
24 After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC
franchise had 100 branches, with some 80 per cent located in Greater Jakarta area, and the rest
spread out in Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and Batam.124 e number is tiny compared to the
14,000 shops of popular minimarket chain Indomaret, but KS212 is hoping to Islamise and the
entire production and distribution system of its retail operations.125
Not all alumni are supportive of the new economic activities; some doubt the professionalism
of KS212.126 Others prefer to keep their business aairs separate from their religio-political
activism. One woman involved in the 212 Reunion rally (2 December 2017) admitted that despite
her strong support for the cause, she would still put her money in a property development
operated by the Lippo Group, condemned by 212 ulama as one of the “nine dragons” controlling
Indonesian economy.127
KS212 leaders are keen to play a part in electoral politics and use the KS212 website and
social media to praise mayors, governors or candidates who invest in their new branches.128
K212 has thus become another way that political candidates can secure Islamist approval.
D. MIUMI 2.0
While Bachtiar Nasir was supportive of KS212, he focused more of his eorts aer the defeat of
Ahok on strengthening his institutional base, especially MIUMI. e ulama group as of early
2018 was focused on political advocacy, especially on policies related to gender and morality. It
was also expanding its religious outreach (dakwah), using the broad themes of “Islamic Unity”
and “Islamic Leadership and the Revival of Islamic Civilisation.
Before the 212 rally, MIUMI used to have only one national meeting and a few local seminars
each year; its headquarter oce was mostly empty, with its members communicating via
WhatsApp every now and then. Its 2014 fatwa condemning gender equality as un-Islamic had
attracted little attention. But aer Bachtiar was catapulted to fame through the Aksi Bela Islam,
everything changed. He became ooded with invitations to various tabligh akbar around the
archipelago and capitalised on his new status to raise MIUMIs prole and bring in prominent
ustadzs from his network. In his eorts to promote Islamic unity, Bachtiar has been positioning
himself as inclusive, attending Maulid events that he once would have condemned as idolatrous
and chanting prayers with traditionalist congregations.
Bachtiar through AQL, and MIUMI more generally, are particularly serious about youth
caderisation. eir dream is to mould a new generation of young people into pious, capable
Muslim leaders who can compete in future elections and hold strategic positions in the
124 “100 Gerai 212 Mart dalam 10 Bulan (Video Sesi Foto)”,, 2 March 2018.
125 “Keren! 212 Mart Al Amanah Tidak Menjual Fanta dan Coca Cola”,, 24 January 2018.
126 One of the issues was the disputed ownership of KS212. Muslim entrepreneur and Gerindra cadre Eka Gumilar claimed
that he was the rightful leader of the cooperative for he was the rst to raise the idea to Rizieq and GNPF leadership before
the 2 December rally. He managed to gather over 1,000 people in rst preparatory meeting for the cooperative on 17
December 2016 and presented the progress at a GNPF seminar on “Economic Revolution” on 21 December. He claimed
that despite his eorts, GNPF leaders handed over the leadership to their own friend, Sya’i Antonio. (https://chirpstory.
com/li/343538). ere was also a dispute between KS212 and ustadz-cum-business guru Valentino Dinsi. Before KS212
was inaugurated, Valentino had tried to monetise the movement by invoking the 212 name in his retail business. In March
2017, Sya’i Antonio attended the launching of one of Valentino’s new shops, but as of May 2017, KS212 claried on its
website that Valentino’s retail was not linked to KS212 and that only the latter had the right to use 212 brand. Valentino was
included in the early KS212 board but as of early 2018, his name had been removed.
127 IPAC interview with a participant of 212 Reunion, Jakarta, 2 December 2017. e nine dragons refer to the nine Chinese-
Indonesian tycoons who purportedly tried to control the government by sponsoring candidates like Ahok and Jokowi.
ese were: Sofyan Wanandi, Tahir, Rusdi Kirana, Jacob Soetoyo, James Riyadi, Anthony Salim, Tommy Winata, Edward
Soeryadjaya, and Robert Budi Hartono. “Baca: Ini Konglomerat Hitam Sembilan Naga Pendukung Ahok, nusantarakini.
com, 26 November 2016.
128 Sri Sugiarti, “Gubernur Banten Resmikan 212 Mart Tirtayasa Tangerang V”,, 19 February 2018.
After Ahok: The Islamist Agenda in Indonesia ©2018 IPAC 25
government. Islamic leadership training has thus become a agship program of AQL.129
MIUMI also keeps up its role as policy pressure group, lobbying among other things for the
adoption of provisions in the new penal code to criminalise adultery and homosexuality acts.
Its members hold public seminars and meet with parliamentarians to inuence the draing
process. Unlike the Presidium, MIUMI has not plunged into electoral politics other than giving
a general advice to its members about Muslim obligation to choose Muslim candidates. Bachtiar
has thus far declined to endorse particular candidates and instead suggested the formation of a
shura (consultation) council in each region to assess which candidates should be recommended
to the faithful. e principle that Muslims should only choose Muslim candidates will of course
e 212 Movement was successful in bringing down Ahok because its target was a non-Muslim;
his actions were portrayed as an assault on Islam; and ulama across Jakarta told voters that it was
their obligation to vote for the Muslim candidate. It will be harder to use the same tactics against
Jokowi in 2019. e president is Muslim, he is popular, he has the support of Nahdlatul Ulama
and he has brought MUI to his side.
At the same time, the mobilising power of Islamist networks was on display for all to see
and that power is likely to grow as the number of their schools and dakwah venues increases.
In this regard, Bachtiar Nasir and Zaitun Rasmin may be more important in the long run
than Rizieq and al-Khaththath because they are working to change norms and values through
education. ey have a very clear agenda to “Islamise” Indonesian state and society from the
grassroots. is is a longer term process than bringing down a candidate here or there. e
potential consequences include greater involvement of the state in deciding issues of morality
and orthodoxy and greater reliance on ulama for policy advice. In the case of the anti-Ahok
campaign, the Sala harakis joined fellow Muslims in the streets, but with their focus on schools
and media, they do not have to turn out for rallies to get their message heard.
e FPI has been weakened by Rizieq’s long absence and any potential he might have had for
being a king-maker – or even a bupati-maker – has all but disappeared. e Islamic unity that
Bachtiar Nasir so strived for has also largely evaporated, with sala-traditionalist dierences
deepening. In February 2018, a video was circulated on YouTube featuring Ja’far Umar alib, a
prominent sala cleric, mocking Rizieq and other traditionalists who had led Aksi Bela Islam as
deviant “liars” who created an illusion of Islamic unity and used it to promote anti-Salasm.130
Other habaib including Rizieq’s son-in law countered by making anti-Wahhabi remarks on- and
oine. e war of words could hurt eorts to keep the 212 alliance alive.
e 212 movement was important because it proved that bringing the capital to a halt with mass
demonstrations can force short-term policy change, but it is hard to see any other issue having
the power to spark such concerted outrage. At the same time, Bachtiar Nasir’s determination to
force the notion of “moderation” to the right seems to have partially succeeded, in part as Jokowi
realises that to win, he needs to reach out to voters who are much more religiously conservative
than he is. How to recognise that constituency’s concerns without capitulating to its most strident
voices or trampling on minority rights may be the biggest challenge for Indonesia in the years ahead.
129 Besides the existing AQL education centres, two other institutions could aid MIUMI’s youth caderisation eorts: an Islamic
tuition school franchise being developed by AQL and an ulama caderisation program for Gontor University graduates
managed by Dr Hamid Fahmi Zarkasyi.
The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conict (IPAC) was founded in 2013 on the principle
that accurate analysis is a critical rst step toward preventing violent conict. Our mission
is to explain the dynamics of conict—why it started, how it changed, what drives it, who
benets—and get that information quickly to people who can use it to bring about positive
In areas wracked by violence, accurate analysis of conict is essential not only to peaceful
settlement but also to formulating effective policies on everything from good governance
to poverty alleviation. We look at six kinds of conict: communal, land and resource,
electoral, vigilante, extremist and insurgent, understanding that one dispute can take
several forms or progress from one form to another. We send experienced analysts with
long-established contacts in the area to the site to meet with all parties, review primary
written documentation where available, check secondary sources and produce in-depth
reports, with policy recommendations or examples of best practices where appropriate.
We are registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs in Jakarta as the Foundation for
Preventing International Crises (Yayasan Penanggulangan Krisis Internasional); our
website is www.understandingcon
This research hasn't been cited in any other publications.
  • Ketua Persaudaraan Alumni 212 Bantah Ada Perpecahan
    Ibid. 110 IPAC interviews with members of Forum Syuhada Indonesia and Presidium Alumni 212, February 2018. 111 "Ketua Persaudaraan Alumni 212 Bantah Ada Perpecahan",, 30 January 2018. 112 "GISS Lahirkan Pemimpin dari Masjid",, 25 September 2017.
  • Exclusive: Indonesian Islamist Leader Says Ethnic Chinese is Next Target
    • Amin Rais
    • Cagub Sudrajat
    • Dan Jamaah Gsb Kumpul Di At-Taqwa Centre
    Amin Rais, Cagub Sudrajat, dan Jamaah GSB Kumpul di At-Taqwa Centre",, 25 December 2017. 118 "Exclusive: Indonesian Islamist Leader Says Ethnic Chinese is Next Target",, 12 May 2017.
  • China Becomes Indonesia's No. 2 Investor with Infrastructure Drive
    For a sample of the hoax, see "Ridwan Saidi: Bapaknya Jokowi Bernama Oey Hong Liong",, 20 May 2014. 120 "China Becomes Indonesia's No. 2 Investor with Infrastructure Drive", Nikkei Asian Review, 1 February 2018.
  • Forum Syuhada Indonesia Akan Sweeping WNA Ilegal, Terutama WN Cina
    • Rudi Agung
    • Impor Pekerja
    • Cina
    • Komunisme
    • Dan Ancaman Kerapuhan
    • Sosial
    Rudi Agung, "Impor Pekerja Cina, Komunisme, dan Ancaman Kerapuhan Sosial",, 19 July 2016. 122 "Forum Syuhada Indonesia Akan Sweeping WNA Ilegal, Terutama WN Cina",, 16 December 2016. 123 "Menkum HAM: berita Tenaga Kerja China Hoax",, 29 December 2016. 124 "100 Gerai 212 Mart dalam 10 Bulan (Video Sesi Foto)",, 2 March 2018.
  • The nine dragons refer to the nine ChineseIndonesian tycoons who purportedly tried to control the government by sponsoring candidates like Ahok and Jokowi
    • Rusdi Tahir
    • Jacob Kirana
    • James Soetoyo
    • Anthony Riyadi
    • Tommy Salim
    • Edward Winata
    • Robert Budi Soeryadjaya
    • Hartono
    IPAC interview with a participant of 212 Reunion, Jakarta, 2 December 2017. The nine dragons refer to the nine ChineseIndonesian tycoons who purportedly tried to control the government by sponsoring candidates like Ahok and Jokowi. These were: Sofyan Wanandi, Tahir, Rusdi Kirana, Jacob Soetoyo, James Riyadi, Anthony Salim, Tommy Winata, Edward Soeryadjaya, and Robert Budi Hartono. "Baca: Ini Konglomerat Hitam Sembilan Naga Pendukung Ahok", nusantarakini. com, 26 November 2016.
  • Gubernur Banten Resmikan 212 Mart Tirtayasa Tangerang V
    • Sri Sugiarti
    Sri Sugiarti, "Gubernur Banten Resmikan 212 Mart Tirtayasa Tangerang V",, 19 February 2018.