‘Self-exiled’ FPI leader Rizieq Shihab to return ‘soon’ amid jobs law protests

Rizieq Shihab, the leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), has announced plans to return back to Indonesia, as hardline Islamic organizations had jumped into the fray of mass opposition against the recently passed Job Creations Law.

The firebrand cleric has spent roughly the past three years in self-exile in Saudi Arabia.

A video of the cleric, making his announcement in a room with several unidentified people, has been circulating on social media and messaging platforms.

Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab (center) receives a visit from Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Erwin Moeslimin Singajuru (right) on April 23, 2018 during his self-imposed exile in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The firebrand cleric has recently posted a video message saying that he plans to return to Indonesia “soon” to join the “fight” against the Job Creation Law.(Kompas TV/Kompas TV)

“Insya Allah [God willing], I will return to Indonesia soon. I will return to fight with the Muslims in our beloved country,” the Rizieq says in the video, adding that the country was currently in “a worrying situation”, although he did not elaborate.

The cleric also urged ulema, activists and public figures to work together to save the country.

Sugito Atmo Prawiro, the FPI head of legal aid and Rizieq’s lawyer, confirmed that the video was recorded recently, as reported by tribunnews.com. However, he could not provide any details as to the date of Rizieq’s planned return to Indonesia.

Several religious organizations, including the FPI and the 212 Alumni Brotherhood (PA 212), have taken to the streets alongside labor unions and students to protest the Job Creation Law. The organizations also demanded that President Joko Widodo step down.

During a protest on Oct. 13, FPI chairman Ahmad Shabri Lubis and PA 212 chairman Slamet Maarif said that Rizieq would return to Indonesia to “lead a revolution”, claiming that Riyadh had given him permission to leave the country.

“The [visa] overstay fine has been resolved […]. He just needs to wait for the administrative process, the safar bayan [exit permit] and to buy airplane tickets,” said Slamet.

Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy chairman Muhyiddin Junaidi said in a statement on Tuesday that Rizieq would help the country’s Islamic activists stay united if he should return to his native country.

“Many people miss [his presence] in Indonesia’s pluralistic society,” Muhyiddin also said in the statement.

Neither the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh nor Indonesian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Agus Maftuh Abegebriel has responded to Rizieq’s announcement. 

Agus said earlier that Rizieq still had to pay a hefty fine for overstaying in Saudi Arabia before he would be allowed to depart the country.

Prior to leaving for Mecca in 2017 to go on an umrah (minor haj), the National Police charged Rizieq in connection with a pornography case and for allegedly insulting Pancasila. The police dropped both charges last year, but the FPI leader remained in Islam’s holy city even though his visa had expired in July 2018.

THE JAKARTA POST

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