Indonesians reject public broadcast of hardline views

Khabar Southeast Asia

Indonesians reject public broadcast of hardline views

TVRI is widely criticised for airing footage of a Hizbut Tahrir leader rejecting democracy, religious freedom and nationalism.

Indonesia’s public broadcaster was forced to apologise last month after it aired hardline views of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) rejecting Pancasila and democracy, causing a public outcry.

On June 6th, Television of the Republic of Indonesia (TVRI) aired edited, one-hour footage of an HTI congress that took place four days earlier in Jakarta, with the theme “Change the World through Khilafah”.

In the broadcast, Farid Wajdi, chairman of the central board of HTI, was seen stating that democracy is a form of kufur (denial of God) because its fundamental principle is liberalism, and that freedom of religion had created a number of cults that should not be protected.

In conclusion, he argued that democracy and nationalism must be left behind and replaced by aKhilafah Islamiyah system (Caliphate).

The programme drew broad outrage, from religious leaders, activists and common people.

“How come TVRI aired a hardline Islamic group meeting, which clearly rejected Pancasila and democracy?” Imdadun Rahmat, deputy secretary general of the moderate Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, told Khabar Southeast Asia.

“TVRI has bigger obligations than a private broadcasting company. It has an obligation to promote the values of Pancasila and promote the Indonesian motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity),” he said.

Going further, Imdadun argued that TVRI should raise awareness in civil society about the dangers of transnational radical organisations such as HTI – especially when those organisations openly reject Pancasila democracy.

Neutral and independent

Tutik Werdani, a 34 year-old Jakarta resident, agreed.

“TVRI is public television. The public paid for it. But why do they provide a special space to an organisation which rejects Pancasila? This could mislead Indonesian viewers about our national ideology,” she told Khabar.

“TVRI should be neutral and independent. If it wanted to air the HTI congress, it should also present counter-opinions” on topics such as democracy and pluralism, Nurvina Alifa, an advocacy co-ordinator at media watchdog group Remotivi, told Khabar.

An alliance of 14 civil society organisations including the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace and the Moderate Muslim Society issued a statement protesting the broadcast.

“Our protest is not intended to neglect freedom of expression. But this is a protest of people who believe in law enforcement and freedom of expression,” the statement read.

Restricting speech is justified when that restriction leads to greater freedom in society, the group argued.

Consequences for TVRI

In the midst of the fallout, on June 10th, Irwan Hendarmin, TVRI’s director of programmes and news, appeared before the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) to provide clarification.

According to KPI’s official website, Irwan apologised to all parties and Indonesian citizens, on behalf of TVRI, for the mistake. “It is a lesson for us in the near future,” Irwan told the KPI.

On June 21st, KPI issued administrative sanctions requiring TVRI to air a statement five times a day for the next three days.

“TVRI is carrying out the request of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission to ensure that the contents of its broadcasts uphold Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, and the Broadcasting Law (UU No 32/2002),” the statement read.

“We received many public complaints about the programme from various elements of society,” Commissioner Nina Mutmainnah told Khabar regarding the HTI broadcast.

“It is because the programme showed a number of speeches that obviously rejected Pancasila and the implementation of democracy in Indonesia.”

Of the sanctions, she said, “It is a lesson for TVRI and for other broadcasting companies in Indonesia. They must follow broadcasting regulations and make sure that they do not harm public interests.”

Ali Fauzi: from terrorism to true Islam

Khabar Southeast Asia

Ali Fauzi: from terrorism to true Islam

By Andhika Bhakti and Elisabeth Oktofani for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

A former bomb-maker and weapons smuggler is now an ambassador of peace.

Ali Fauzi once taught people to make bombs. Today, he is one of the few former militants who now devotes himself to telling the public about the harm terrorism inflicts.

In April and May, he accompanied Ansyaad Mbai, head of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) to several cities, speaking freely about his past and explaining how terrorism defiles Islam.

Detonating bombs in public places kills many innocent people, including children, he explained. Terrorist networks steal money to purchase bomb-making materials. Worst of all, he said, they don’t take responsibility for their attacks, leaving other people to be accused.

“You can’t be secretive. There has to be a leader who takes responsibility,” he said at a BNPT event in Balikpapan, Kalimantan, according to a Jawa Pos News Network (JPNN) report.

Roving jihadi

The 42-year-old native of Lamongan, East Java is the youngest brother of Amrozi and Ali Ghufron, both convicted and executed for their roles in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people and injured hundreds.

From 1994 to 2006, Ali Fauzi was a roving jihadi, joining the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Southern Philippines, and Muslim-Christian violence in Ambon and Poso.

In 1998-1999, he was an instructor at a Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant camp in East Java, where he taught nearly 250 people about how to make bombs.

“Back then I was an instructor for a field engineering class at an East Java training camp. I taught them about chemical materials and firing devices for bomb making,” he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

From 1999-2002, in Ambon and in Poso, he became a field co-ordinator for Crisis Management and Prevention Committee (KOMPAK), a JI-linked group with humanitarian aims.

During this time, he began to sour on JI, realising its doctrine was not consistent with Sharia Islam, since it permitted violence against civilians.

“I really never agreed with any jihads involving attacking/bombing churches in conflict areas, exploding nightclubs in Bali or hotels in Jakarta,” he explained.

He called many of those violent acts a “wrong jihad.”

“Many wrong jihads would kill innocent people. It also created a bad image for Muslims. Additionally, it is not a jihad because Indonesia is not a jihad ground,” he added.

Smuggling weapons

Ali described how easy it was for him and his comrades to move weapons around the region to supply Muslims fighting Christians in Ambon and Poso.

He said he dressed as a migrant worker to cross to Sabah in eastern Malaysia, using a fishing boat in the dark. “You don’t need a passport. I didn’t carry one. For the security, it is really hard to confirm your ID and your face in the dark,” he told Khabar.

“We packed the guns into large backpacks and travelled on fishing boats or petrol tankers heading for Indonesia from the Philippines,” he added.

“The route from Sabah to Southern Philippines is a favourite route for many militant fighters in Southeast Asia. It is the same route used by Indonesian militants to escape the country,” BNPT chief Ansyaad told Khabar. He said a regional approach among Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines is needed to address the problem.

Many friends, many perspectives

Ali was active with the MILF from 2003-2006. But since then, he has lived a life of peace, and made friends with many different people.

“I have many friends, who are Christian, Hindu, and Chinese. I am cool with them. All we need is to respect each other,” he said.

A father of five, Ali is active in farming and teaching. He serves as a lecturer at The School of Tarbiyah at Muhammadiyah University and at Al Islam boarding school, both in Lamongan, East Java.

He teaches on the need for unity among followers of Islam. According to him, Islam accommodates many different perspectives. “It needs to be understood that different views in Islam have existed for a very long time and cannot be avoided,” he said.

“Therefore, we need to respect each other’s point of view…If we cannot do so, that is the root of radicalism,” Ali explained.

He emphasised his faith in Islam will never fade. Although he rejects radicalism and terrorist acts, he says he is still a “mujahid” who defends Islam through dakwah (missionary work) and preaching.

True defender of Islam

Ali’s story has inspired many people. Precisely because of the years he spent on the wrong path, he has credibility in pointing out the right one.

“I wish in the future that there will be more people like Ali Fauzi – someone who decides to do jihad in a good way by using his personal experience when he was a member of JI,” said Hanung Wicaksono, a Muslim cleric in West Jakarta.

“We need more people like Ali, who is now defending Islam in a good way,” he added.

“I was reading a recent profile in the media about Ali Fauzi. I am pretty amazed with his experiences, and I am glad he decided to convert from a trainer in militant camps to an educator. It is a good change,” said Bambang Setiyono, a 23-year-old in Tangerang, Jakarta.

Indonesia needs more people like Fauzi to “help the Indonesian government tackle terrorism and to begood examples for those who value jihad in the wrong way,” Bambang said.

“He is now an ambassador of peace.”