November 10, 2020, 10.51 PM

JAKARTA, – Thousands of people from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) vigilante organization welcomed their chief Rizieq Shihab home from his three-year exile in Saudi Arabia on November 10.

Rizieq expressed his relief at returning to Indonesia after he fled to Saudi Arabia in 2017, when the Indonesian National Police declared him a prime suspect in a pornography case.

“If Allah has willed [that I] should return [to Indonesia], no force can [stop me]!,” the firebrand cleric said to his followers near his home in Central Jakarta’s Petamburan district. “I have returned to call on Indonesian Muslims to join in carrying out a morals revolution.”

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He did not specify what he meant by his ‘morals revolution’. The Jakarta Metropolitan Police noted that the FPI shut down traffic and the Transjakarta bus routes near Petamburan until Rizieq's followers dispersed in the afternoon.

Earlier in the morning, the FPI paralyzed Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta Airport from 5am to 10am as they converged on Terminal 3 to await the Saudi Airlines flight taking him home. The police said the mob cut off access to the airport.

“[FPI members] used the toll leading to the airport as a makeshift parking lot for their vehicles,” noted Soekarno-Hatta Police Precinct officer Chief Police Commissioner Tugiyo. “Their actions brought traffic to a standstill.”

Mass of Islamic Defenders Front [FPI] members await the return of exiled chief Habib Rizieq Shihab at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport [10/11/2020]ANTARA FOTO/MUHAMMAD IQBAL Mass of Islamic Defenders Front [FPI] members await the return of exiled chief Habib Rizieq Shihab at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport [10/11/2020]

The FPI's visit also forced airline passengers and aircrew to miss their flights and wreaked havoc to the airlines’ timetable.

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“A number of airlines such as Lion Air, Batik Air, Garuda Indonesia, Sriwijaya and Citilink have rescheduled their flight schedules and offered to refund passengers who missed their flights today,” said Angkasa Pura II airline insurance Branch and Communications Senior Manager Haerul Anwar.

Transportation Ministry Director General for Air Transport Novie Riyanto confirmed the step. “[The FPI’s visit] has disrupted 28 flights,” he said. “Some were delayed by 1 to 3 hours, while others were canceled altogether.”

Rizieq has claimed that the Indonesian government barred him from returning to Indonesia, a charge the Indonesian Embassy in Saudi Arabia denies. The FPI is notorious for using Islam as a pretext to terrorize individuals or businesses since its founding in August 1998.

(Writers: Ihsanuddin, Rindi Nuris Velarosdela, Singgih Wiryono | Editor: Nursita Sari)


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