Center for Strategic Communication

Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front – FPI) is a domestic Indonesian terrorist organization. Its goal is the implementation of Shari’ah at national and local levels in Indonesia. It presents itself as an ally of government security forces in their attempts to control sin and vice. It uses hate speech to motivate and legitimize violent attacks on organizations and individuals it considers to be sinful or religiously deviant. It has targeted Christian minorities and members of the Ahmadiyah Muslim sect for physically violent attacks. It conducts hate speech campaigns against Muslim organizations and intellectuals supporting religious freedom, branding them as “enemies of the state” and “more satanic than Satan.”

Unlike many other Muslim terrorist organizations FPI is not based on Salafi or Wahhabi religious teachings. It does not have ties with trans-national religious or political movements. FPI leaders have religious roots in traditional Indonesian Islam and are associated with Sufi mystical brotherhoods. Rank and file members have little religious education. Many have criminal backgrounds and describe themselves as “reformed gangsters.”

FPI has established “discursive cover” for violence by linking its actions to fatwa (legal opinions) issued by the semi-official Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Council of Islamic Scholars – MUI). It has also established relationships with elements of the security forces and with Salafi oriented organizations. It can be understood as a violent element of a broadly based movement seeking to establish Shari’ah but not to alter the structure of the Indonesian political system.

The Indonesian government and its leaders condemn violence committed in the name of religion and support religious liberty in policy statements and speeches. Efforts by Indonesian security forces to contain inter-nationally oriented, anti-state terrorist organization have been largely successful.  They have done little to counter FPI violence. This indicates that the government lacks the political will to defend the lives and rights of religious minorities.

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