INDONESIA’s government has legally disbanded fundamentalist group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) for threatening national unity and the state ideology in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
After months of debate regarding the proposed ban, the Jakarta Post reported on Wednesday Indonesia’s Law and Human Rights Ministry has officially revoked HTI’s status as a legal entity for conducting activities that contradict the state ideology of Pancasila and the principle of a unitary state of the Indonesian republic.
The revocation of the group’s legal status came following a decree signed last Monday by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to alter a 2013 law on civil society organisations – this time aimed at containing the rise of radical groups who oppose the president.
“With the revocation of its legal status, we declared the HTI is disbanded, in accordance with Article 80A of the Perppu (decree),” the ministry’s legal administration director-general, Freddy Harris, was quoted as saying.
“Our decision to revoke its legal status is based on extensive consideration, long examination and input from relevant institutions,” Freddy said, adding the HTI could seek legal redress on the government’s decision.
While HTI advocates the overturning of democracy with a global caliphate, it does not employ violent means. The group is already banned in most Muslim-majority countries, but since 1998 has operated freely within Indonesia’s democratic system.
The ban is almost entirely unprecedented – the only other outlawed organisation in Indonesia is the former Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), which has been defunct for decades.
Earlier this year, Islamist groups were instrumental in the downfall of Jakarta’s former governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian who was accused and subsequently jailed for two years for insulting Islam under Indonesia’s strict blasphemy laws.
Supporters of HTI were among the so-called Aksi Bela Islam (Action to Defend Islam) movement, which culminated in Ahok’s electoral defeat in April and his imprisonment in May.
The events, including massive and sometimes violent street rallies led by Islamist vigilante groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), have raised concerns about the erosion of Indonesia’s long-standing image as a tolerant and pluralistic state.
Unlike other Indonesian Islamist groups including the FPI, HTI explicitly opposes democracy and the Indonesian nation itself.
Last week, HTI and civil organisations in Indonesia decried the move by the government, accusing the Jokowi administration of being repressive and branding the leader a “dictator.”
“This decree is proof this regime is repressive, authoritarian, and even repeating what the New Order regime did,” Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia spokesman Ismail Yusanto said last Wednesday, referring to the rule of former strongman president Suharto, in a statement echoed by human rights groups.
HTI is estimated to have around 40,000 card-carrying members in Indonesia, while its support base is perhaps made of 200,000 people across the archipelago.