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Indonesia Cracks Down on Hard-Line Muslim Group

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

Indonesian police have detained more than 50 members of a militant Muslim group for questioning over an attack on a rally for religious tolerance in the Indonesian capital Jakarta during the weekend. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

Indonesia authorities detained 57 members of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, after a raid involving around 2,000 police on the group's headquarters and several houses in Jakarta on Wednesday.

On Sunday about a dozen people were injured, several seriously, after FPI members brandishing batons chased and beat people who were attending an interfaith rally calling for religious tolerance.

The attacks came after several speakers at the rally urged tolerance towards members of the Ahmadiyah, a minority Muslim sect that critics believe follow a "deviant' form of Islam and should be banned.

The attacks outraged moderate Muslims, including members of the Liberal Islamic Network, or JIL.

JIL senior member Nong Darol called on the government to ban the FPI.

"We want that police do something like this to FPI members. I think the government should ban this organization," said Darol.

On Monday, FPI leader Habib Rizhiq, called on his followers to prepare for war against Ahmadiyah and their supporters.

JIL leader Nong calls the FPI a criminal organization.

"In last Sunday's demonstration, mostly our members is women and children, but FPI attack us and I think this organization is criminal, not a religious organization, but criminal organization," said Nong.

The government, which has condemned Sunday's attack, is looking into whether there is a legal case to ban the FPI.

The Islamic Defenders Front claims tens of thousands of followers. The group is best known for attacking bars and nightclubs during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

But in recent months they have also attacked mosques and buildings belonging to Ahmadiyah followers.

Indonesia has the world's largest population of Muslims. The vast majority practice a moderate form of the faith in this democratic, secular nation.