By Ryan Dagur
Islamic-based opposition parties have joined forces with militants in accusing President Joko Widodo of choking freedom of expression and pandering to communists.
They demanded the government get rid of a decree issued in July that gives it the right to disband mass organizations it considers a threat to national stability.
The accusations came as representative of parties that included the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party and the Great Indonesia Movement Party, led by Widodo’s arch-rival Prabowo Subianto, welcomed about 15,000 protesting Islamic hardliners outside the national parliament on Sept. 29.
They accused Widodo of trying to suppress Islam through the decree while at the same time allowing the revival of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
They cited the move to disband pro-Caliphate group, Hizbut Tahrir in July. The hard-line group is challenging the decree in the courts.
The allegations stem from mudslinging ahead of the 2014 presidential election in which Widodo was accused of being the son of former Communist Party members.
The accusations came to the fore again in September when Indonesian police and Muslim groups broke up a forum in Jakarta to discuss events during a deadly purge on communists more than 50 years ago.
About 500,000 were thought killed following the murders of several generals, blamed on Chinese communists.
“Widodo is pursuing an anti-Islam democracy,” rally organizer, Slamet Maarif, told ucanews.com.
“The decree attacks us as Muslims to fight for what we want,” he said after the rally.
Abdul Amin, a protester from Tangerang in Banten Province, said he had come with hundreds of his friends out of anger at Widodo.
“He prefers to defend communist groups and pressure us,” he said.
Calling Widodo a pro-communist president, Hizbut Tahrir spokesman, Ismail Yusanto, said the president was attacking the teachings of Islam.
“How can it be in Muslim-majority countries, that a Caliphate is forbidden,” he said.
Jazuli Juwaini from PKS joined the hardliner in calling the decree contrary to the spirit of democracy.
“We agree with them, and we will fight against the decree,” he said.
A Great Indonesia Movement Party spokesman said, “the decree will silence critical voices.”
“As citizens, we are guaranteed by law to express opinions,” Fadli Zon said.
Commenting on accusations that the government is pro-communist, he said, communism must not be allowed back in the country.
Hardliners, and opposition parties in turn are being accused of using the communist and religious issues to undermine Widodo ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
Analysts predict the election will be a two-horse race between Widodo and Subianto.
Wiranto, the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs said he was confused by the protesters’ demands.
“It was made clear that ideologies looking to undermine the state’s secular philosophy, Pancasila, including communism would be banned,” Wiranto said.