My family is not radicalised, says Indonesian Minister Wiranto, responding to social media comments

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto wrote a public letter on Nov 19, 2018, to respond to comments about pictures of his family at the funeral of his grandson, Achmad Daniyal Al Fatih.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto wrote a public letter on Nov 19, 2018, to respond to comments about pictures of his family at the funeral of his grandson, Achmad Daniyal Al Fatih.PHOTO: FACEBOOK / WIRANTO

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Security chief Wiranto went the extra mile to defend his family following allegations that some of his family members had joined a radical group.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto wrote a public letter on Monday (Nov 19) to respond to comments about pictures that were posted on social media of his family at the funeral of his grandson, Achmad Daniyal Al Fatih, last Friday.

The 15-month-old toddler died after he slipped into a fish pond in the garden at home on Nov 15.

His mother, Mr Wiranto's daughter Lia Wiranto, was seen in a picture wearing a niqab (full-face veil). Next to her was the mourning father, wearing a white Muslim turban. The boy was the youngest of seven children. 

The funeral pictures made the rounds on social media, with some people surprised that the country's top official on security, who deals with radicalism and terrorism, would have a daughter and son-in-law wearing attire often associated with radicalism and terrorism.

"When my grandson, Achmad Daniyal Al Fatih died, his mother, father and older siblings wore Muslim attire - niqab and white turbans - and many people were surprised. Social media was abuzz talking about them," Mr Wiranto said in the letter.

"Some were happy to see them, some were insulting and casting aspersions. Some tried to relate (the Muslim attire) to my position as (the chief security minister)."

Mr Wiranto continued: "I give my family the freedom to be anything they want as long as they don't veer off the principles I taught them.

"I always emphasised that they should do good for the country, instead of making the country suffer."

The founder of the Hanura Party, who also shared his 50-year devotion to protect the country's unity and sovereignty in the letter, said he had taught his children to feel a sense of nationalism and to learn about religion to equip themselves in the afterlife and for the benefit of others.

Mr Wiranto also told his family members, none of whom are following in his footsteps as a member of the military or politician: "You can wear anything you want as long as you are comfortable. But the most important thing is don't use your appearance only to show off how Islamic you are because the depth of your religion is not measured by your clothes and appearance, but by your morals and behaviour."

Wearing a niqab has never been considered a mainstream Islamic practice in Indonesia, where a large number of Muslim women wear the hijab that covers only their neck and head, while many also do not wear head coverings.

The use of the niqab - which has often been associated with religious extremism - has stirred controversy in the country, with the nation's largest Islamic organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, saying that wearing a veil is not obligatory for Muslim women.

The picture of Mr Wiranto's family also reminded some of his late son Zainal Nurizky, who died of an illness in 2013, when he was studying the Quran at Islamic university Darul Uloom Zakariyya in South Africa.

Mr Zainal was also known as an active member of Jamaah Tabligh, a transnational Islamic movement that originated in India, which focuses on preaching.

When he died, Mr Wiranto admitted that some people accused Mr Zainal of being a follower of radical Islam and a terrorist.

"I just laughed because I would not deign to respond to them," the minister said.

When 10 Indonesian citizens and members of Jamaah Tabligh were trapped during intense clashes between security forces and insurgents linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group in Marawi City, the Philippines, last year, Mr Wiranto asserted that the group was not extremist.

Ms Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, explained that Jamaah Tabligh was a non-violent missionary movement that began in South Asia and was known for its khuruj programme, in which members were encouraged to spend 40 days per year preaching, often outside their own country.

The Indonesian citizens who were trapped in Marawi and later evacuated with the help of Filipino authorities were performing the khuruj at the time.

"(Jamaah Tabligh) has no connection to terrorism or violent extremism, but because its members dress very conservatively and are frequently on the move, it has been frequently exploited by extremists without the knowledge of the tablighi leaders," Ms Jones told The Jakarta Post.