JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A video depicting members of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation burning what is believed to be the flag of a hardline Islamist group has sparked controversy.
In the two-minute clip that went viral on Monday (Oct 22), individuals wearing uniforms of a civilian security unit under the youth wing (Banser) of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation are seen setting a black flag bearing the Islamic creed of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) on fire.
HTI is a banned Islamist group that calls for the establishment of a caliphate ruled by syariah law.
Dozens of other people wearing the same uniform were watching over the burning. When the fire started engulfing the flag, members started singing the Banser marching song.
The incident occurred during a National Santri Day rally in Garut, West Java, on Monday.
Indonesian netizens were outraged by the video, saying the flag burning was a blasphemous act. The flag had contained the text of the tauhid, which is the core of the Islamic faith and expresses the belief in Allah as the one and only God.
"Will Banser members that burned the tauhid flag utter La Illaha Illallah (Syahadah) upon their death, while they burned the sentence when alive?" Twitter user @CakKhum tweeted on Monday, while sharing the video.
West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil was among the first officials to respond to the video. The governor tweeted on his Twitter account @ridwankamil on Monday that he regretted the incident.
"They were supposed to burn the symbol of an organisation that had been banned by the government, but in my opinion, (the act) triggered a different interpretation. Let's express our views in an acceptable manner. Our nation needs that," he said.
Mr Ridwan's statement was echoed by Mr Zainut Tauhid Saad, the deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), who said Banser should be more aware of what it was committing to avoid triggering conflict among Muslims.
He also urged people not be provoked by the video. "It shouldn't be exaggerated because it might trigger further misunderstanding," he said, as quoted by Antara.
Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has also weighed in, saying on Tuesday that the police were investigating the case.
The Garut Police have apprehended and questioned three people for their alleged involvement in the flag burning. Police chief Budi Satria Wiguna said the police were also looking for another individual who allegedly brought the flag to the rally.
"We suspect it was an HTI flag, although we need to investigate it further," he said, as quoted by kompas.com.
NU youth wing GP Ansor chairman Yaqut Cholil Coumas said he was collecting more information from officials of the wing's Garut chapter regarding the incident. He added that GP Ansor would punish the implicated members if they were found guilty.
"(The punishment) will depend on the level of the wrongdoing. However, we don't have the full story of the incident yet," Mr Yaqut said, as quoted by Tempo.co.