Radical Islamist groups support Prabowo’s Indonesian presidency

Despite Prabowo's mixed religious background, where his mother and siblings are Christians, while his father is Muslim.

Matthias Ang | April 16, 01:26 am


Should Indonesian presidential candidate and challenger Prabowo Subianto win the Indonesian general election, the country is expected to undergo a shift towards a conservative society.

Both The South China Morning Post and The Jakarta Post reported that radical Islamist groups such as the Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI) and supporters of the now-banned Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) have thrown their support behind the candidacy of Prabowo.

A victory for Prabowo is expected to signify, among other things, a greater push for sharia law and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate across Indonesia, and an intensified crackdown on religious and LGBT minorities.

Moreover, by virtue of having a sizeable number of people support these two groups, it has made a noticeable impact on the political discourse of Indonesia, by framing Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, as unfriendly to Islam, SCMP reported.

What else do these groups do?


The FPI has been characterised by The Jakarta Post as a paramilitary group that has little interest in governance.

Its leader, Habib Rizieq Shihab, is currently in Mecca, Saudia Arabia, after fleeing Indonesia in 2017 on a charge of violating the pornography law.

SCMP reported that members of the group have also engaged in terrorist activities, such as joining ISIS in Syria, and being involved in the 2005 Bali bombing and the 2009 Jakarta Marriot Hotel blast.

The group has also gained a reputation for vigilantism, having engaged in attacks on nightclubs, bars and other places that sell alcohol, particularly during the annual Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Additionally, the group also played a key role in organising protests against the former Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), in November 2016, over allegations of religious blasphemy, where they called for his arrest and death, The Straits Times reported.

On April 7, Rizieq made an appearance at a rally by Prabowo via video call in which he addressed Prabowo’s supporters, listing out various reasons why people should support Prabowo.

That particular rally had seen Prabowo claim that a million people were in attendance.

News accounts differ on whether Prabowo was present for his speech.

SCMP, citing “local media”, reported that Prabowo left the stadium before Rizieq completed his speech.

However, The Jakarta Post reported that Prabowo had left when Rizieq addressed the rally via video call.


As for HTI, The Jakarta Post has characterised the organisation as “anti-democratic”.

It is the local chapter of the global organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir, with a call for the establishment of a global caliphate, The Guardian reported.

The group had been banned, in July 2017, on the grounds that its call for a caliphate was antithetical to Indonesia’s state motto of Pancasila, ST reported.

Prior to its banning, the group was noted to have primarily spread its influence through Indonesian universities, New Mandala reported.

The group was also reported to have played a role in the protests against Ahok over blasphemy allegations, ST reported.

A spokesperson from HTI has since stated that it was the group’s hope that the ban would be voided in the event that Prabowo became president, SCMP reported.

Prabowo hasn’t actually campaigned for an Islamist agenda so far due to his mixed religious heritage

All that being said, it should noted that while Prabowo has the support of radical Islamist parties, Prabowo himself has not actually campaigned for an Islamist agenda, The Nikkei Asian Review reported.

The Japanese-based media outlet added that Prabowo himself has taken care not to press too hard on religion given his own mixed religious heritage — a Muslim father, a Christian mother, and Christian siblings.

Additionally, the presence of Ma’ruf Amin, Indonesia’s top Muslim ulema (teacher), as Jokowi’s running mate, has made ulemas on Prabowo’s side reluctant to attack Jokowi.

Prabowo’s brother: No commitment made to any Islamist party

Subsequently, SCMP quoted Prabowo’s deputy director and younger brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo, who said:

“I want to make it very clear, neither my brother or Sandi (Sandiago Uno, Prabowo’s running mate) has ever made any commitments to any [Islamist] organisations of that sort.”

Hashim further added that allegations of his brother’s intention to abolish Pancasila and set up an Islamic state was slander spread by an unspecified “other side”:

“There is no mention at all from my brother to abolish Pancasila and to set up an Islamic state… That’s never my brother’s intention. Never was and never will be. That’s disinformation, slander perpetuated by the other side and we know who they are.”

In highlighting the moderate nature of his brother, Hashim highlighted his own religious credentials, stating:

“I am a Christian, I am not just a nominal Christian, I am a God-fearing Christian. My sister is a Roman Catholic. Not too many foreigners know that and they think we are a bunch of rabid Islamists.”

Top image from Prabowo Subianto Facebook

About Matthias Ang

Matthias is that annoying guy whose laughter overshadows the joke.

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