More than 1,000 Islamic hard-liners gathered at an anti-Ahmadiyah rally in Jakarta on Friday, issuing fresh threats to topple the government if officials did not disband the minority Muslim sect.
The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which organized the rally at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, claimed Ahmadis wanted all other Muslims dead, “so they must be eliminated first.”
The protesters also called President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a banci , or transvestite, saying he was a coward for not dissolving the sect, which has been deemed deviant by mainstream Muslims for its divergent views on Islamic prophets.
Awid Mashuri, deputy secretary general of the FPI, demanded that the government “stand for us instead of for Ahmadiyah.”
“[The president] should act faster on this,” he said. “If he keeps silent, we’ll assume that he supports the existence of Ahmadiyah in Indonesia, and that’s a humiliation to Islam, so if it happens, we demand [he] resign.”
His call prompted the crowd to shout: “We want an Islamic revolution!”
In Makassar, FPI chairman Habib Riziq in his Friday sermon said he would exhaust all means to dismantle Ahmadiyah.
“In the name of Allah, I swear that until the last drop of my blood, whatever the risks, Ahmadiyah must not exist in Indonesia,” he said.
In Jakarta, protesters marched to the office of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), which they accused of “violating Islam” by calling for the protection of Ahmadis.
Misbakhul Hanan, an FPI member, said a much bigger rally would be held on March 1.
“All Muslims will join us, we’ll stay all night in front of the State Palace until [Yudhoyono] issues the order to disband Ahmadiyah,” he said. “That’s his deadline. If he misses it, the revolution that took place in Egypt will happen in Indonesia too.”
However, the government brushed off the threats, with Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi saying he had built a rapport with the FPI.
“I feel this brotherly bond with Habib and [FPI spokesman] Munarman,” he said. “I’ve been good acquaintances with Munarman since I was at the LBH [Legal Aid Foundation] with him.”
But Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party did not take the threats lightly, with lawmaker Ramadhan Pohan accusing the FPI of abusing freedom of speech.
He called on the police to respond to the threats seriously and said the FPI was damaging the authority of the state.
Additional reporting by Camelia Pasandaran & Markus Sihaloho
Importation of foreign films into Indonesia has been halted and will only resume if the government revokes a new levy on imported films, the spokesman of 21 Cineplex has warned.
Noorca Masardi told the Jakarta Globe that 21, Indonesia’s largest movie theater chain with 500 screens, would only continue to screen foreign films that were already showing.
“[After this], we will not be able to screen any more imported films until the customs department changes its policy on film distribution in Indonesia,” he said, adding that this applies not only to movies from the United States but also Europe and Asia.
The Motion Picture Association on Thursday told journalists at a preview for “Black Swan” that the Oscar-nominated movie was likely the last foreign offering it would bring into this country because of the new levy on imported film distribution.
Noorca was quoted in other news portals as explaining that imported films already had to pay a 23.75 percent excise duty, a 10 percent tax to the central government and another 10-15 percent of the profit from ticket sales to regional governments. The new tax on distribution, he said, was also as much as 23.75 percent.
“There is no similar rule in any other country,” he later told the Globe.
Government officials involved in the matter have repeatedly declined to provide details of the new levy, saying only that talks were ongoing.
Noorca warned of the effect the policy would have has on the nation’s theaters and viewers.
“Every year, cinemas screen 50 to 80 local titles and 100 to 150 foreign titles. If the government does not revoke this new policy, it will kill the cinema industry in Indonesia,” he said. “If no solution is found, Indonesian cinemas will close down one by one.”
Indonesia’s film industry has suffered a downturn in recent years. In 2009, six local films sold more than a million tickets each at the box office. In 2010, only one movie broke the million mark.
Last year, 81 Indonesian films had cinema releases, slightly down from 83 films in 2009, although a significant decline from 91 big-screen releases in 2008.
Members of the MPA include some of the biggest studios in the United States, including Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Hundreds of Indonesian migrant workers who have been forced to live under a bridge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, arrived in Jakarta on Friday morning.
Rosyandi Monzier, spokesman for the National Board for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers (BNP2TKI), said 336 Indonesians arrived at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 10:20 a.m.
The group comprised 302 migrant workers, 15 children and 19 infants.
The Indonesian government had paid for the flights and would pay for the workers to return to their home villages throughout Indonesia.
Two of the returning workers spoken to by the Jakarta Globe spoke positively of their experiences in Saudi Arabia.
Zaenab, 34, from Sumedang, said she was happy to be home but wanted to return to Saudi Arabia.
“I earned 800 riyals [Rp 1.9 million] per month and it was a lot of money. I was lucky to have a good employer, therefore I want to go back to Jeddah,” Zaenab said.
She said if her employers were not good people, she would not have worked for them for 2 years and 4 months.
Asked how she ended up living under the infamous bridge, Zaenab said she regularly sent her money home to her family and did not have enough cash to return home once her contract ended.
Halimah, 50, from Situbondo, had a similar story but unlike Zaenab said she did not want to return to the desert kingdom.
“I think it’s time for me to rest after 5 years of hard work in Jeddah to send my children to University,” Halimah said.
“The 5 years were a good experience: I earned 1200 real per month; my children have been going to university. What would I look for next? I am too tired to work as a cleaning lady in Saudi,” she said.
“I miss my family and I want to be with them,” she added.