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FPI diversifies business to land conflicts

The Islam Defenders Front (FPI), notorious for its violent raids supposedly in support of sharia, is diversifying. The Islamic defenders are now available for hire to defend your disputed property.

The extremist group is now fighting housing developer PT Alam Sutra over disputed land in Paku Alam village, South Tangerang. Hundreds of FPI members were involved in a violent clash with the company’s security guards and police when they tried to invade the land on the Prophet Muhammad’s Ascension Day, June 6. Two police officers were injured and 11 FPI members arrested.

The FPI was hired by the Ronah family who claim to be legal owners of the 2.2-hectare site. The company believe they had bought the land to develop a new housing complex. On Monday, hundreds of FPI members staged a demonstration at the city police headquarters, demanding the release of their fellow members and the arrest of “gangsters” hired by the developer to guard the land.

The police ignored the FPI demands and said the 11 people arrested would be investigated and brought to justice.

“The detainees will undergo further due process because they were guilty of using machetes and knives in launching assaults on the company’s security guards and riot police,” spokesman for the city police Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said on Monday.

He stressed that the police would remain neutral in dealing with the case and the two sides should go to court to seek a permanent settlement to their dispute.

Rikwanto said the police were also considering a lawsuit against the FPI which they said had violated Law No. 9/1999 on freedom of expression.

“FPI has a right to stage a demonstration to protest against the house developing company but it should first report the planned protest to the police. Instead, the protesters did not express an opinion, but launched an attack on security guards and later on riot police deployed to calm the situation, on the Islamic holiday,” he said.

FPI Secretary General Sobri Lubis, denied that the FPI had been hired but said its main mission was to uphold justice and defended the Ronah family’s right to the land because they had an authentic document of ownership.

“Instead, PT Alam Sutra has hired gangsters and police officers to expel the innocent people from their own land,” he said.

“We can’t see such injustice occur and in this case we have an obligation defend to them, because they need our support.”

Sobri admitted that the Ronah family and their lawyer had asked for their help to take over the land.

“When we tried to help them, we met gangsters and police officers,” he said, adding that the policemen were from Tangerang police.

“We want the Jakarta police chief to discharge the Tangerang police chief because he has misused his people to help these gangsters,” Sobri added.

When questioned about the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR) whose main business is guarding disputed properties in the city and surrounding areas, Sobri had no problems. The FPI may have to face the FBR because the front’s main mission was to defend the needy and uphold justice.

“The most important thing for us is to fight everyone who commit crimes and negates people’s rights, no matter their ethnic, religious and social background,” he said.

FPI has often featured prominently in cases which put them in the peak of media attention. The existence and activities of the FPI have raised a wide discontent in society, taking the law into their own hands and preaching violence in the name of God.

Many FPI members in various parts of the country have been jailed for their involvement in violent raids but the organization cannot be liquidated under the 1989 Mass Organization Law.

In 2008, FPI Chairman Rizieq Shihab was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in an attack on a peace rally in Jakarta.

In 2011, three followers of the Ahmadiyah Sect were killed in an attack by FPI members in Cikeusik, Banten, but the Serang District Court gave only light sentences to the killers.

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