Islamist group protests against Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan speaks to journalists after his meeting with Bank Indonesia Governor Agus Martowardojo at the central bank's Jakarta headquarters on Jan 5, 2018. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Some 50 people calling themselves members of the Revolutionary Islamic Community Forum (FUIR) staged a rally on Monday (March 19) demanding Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan step down for allegedly turning his back on firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab and the Muslim community following his election.

Mr Rizieq, the leader of radical group Islam Defenders Front (FPI), was considered to have played a vital role behind the election of Mr Anies as governor.

"Anies should resign from his post as governor because he only exploits the voice of ummah [the Muslim community] for his political gain," said rally coordinator Dhany Lesy during the protest at the Jakarta Legislative Council (DPRD) in central Jakarta.

Mr Dhany said that Mr Anies remained silent and did nothing to defend Mr Rizieq, who fled to Saudi Arabia after being implicated in a pornography case in which he was accused of exchanging sexually explicit messages and nude photos with a woman.

"While Rizieq was in trouble, which forced him to go to Saudi Arabia, there was no single word or initiative coming from Anies to defend Rizieq," he said.

Anies is widely seen to have ridden the Islamist wave to win last year's gubernatorial election against his main rival, the outgoing Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. Basuki became the target of sectarian rhetoric in a series of rallies organised by FPI and other Islamist groups in the months leading up to election day.

During his campaign, Mr Anies visited the FPI's headquarters and met with Rizieq, sparking criticism from among his detractors as well as his more progressive supporters. Rizieq was a key figure behind the rallies against Basuki.

Mr Anies, however, said he was only trying to give all elements of society the chance for a dialogue with their gubernatorial candidate.

FPI spokesman Slamet Maarif said that the FUIR was not among the groups involved in a rally held on Dec 2, which was one of the country's largest protests against Basuki. He also stopped short of confirming whether the FPI endorsed FUIR's rally on Monday.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.