Move comes a day before the verdict in Jakarta governor’s blasphemy case
Indonesia’s top security minister said that the government will move to disband a hard-line Islamist group that is seeking to establish a transnational caliphate, as the world’s largest Muslim-majority country struggles to contain growing religious divisions.
The announcement came a day before a court will determine whether the Christian governor of Jakarta is guilty of blasphemy, and if so, whether he will serve time in prison, an issue that contributed to his defeat last month in a tense election campaign marked by mass rallies of hard-liners.
Wiranto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, told a news conference that the government would bring a case to court to disband Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia, the local arm of an international group that campaigns for the establishment of a caliphate, or Islamic state.
The government views Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia’s activities as inconsistent with the country’s pluralistic constitution and national unity, said Mr. Wiranto, who goes by one name. The group recently has been denied permits to hold a caliphate forum in Jakarta.
Officials of the group, which doesn’t have a history of terrorism or violence, were unavailable for comment. The organization recruits primarily among university students and is part of a growing trend toward conservatism in a country long known for practicing a tolerant version of Islam.
The group was one of several hard-line organizations that has campaigned over the past several months for the removal of Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the country’s most prominent Christian politician and a member of the long-persecuted ethnic Chinese minority.
In the election campaign to run Indonesia’s capital and economic nerve center, Mr. Purnama, an ally of President Joko Widodo, was dogged by allegations that he lightheartedly referred in a speech to a Quranic verse that says Muslims shouldn’t be ruled by non-Muslims. He apologized and said he meant no offense, but was prosecuted for blasphemy, punishable by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment.
Mr. Purnama, who maintains his innocence, is scheduled to appear before a judicial panel Tuesday to hear their verdict and sentence if found guilty. The prosecutors have recommended two years’ probation, avoiding jail time, but a demonstration led by hard-liners last Friday called for Mr. Purnama to be imprisoned.
Their success in bringing down Mr. Purnama marked a milestone in influence for hard-liners since the ouster of longtime dictator Suharto in 1998.
They backed his rival, the former university rector Anies Baswedan, who was also supported by Prabowo Subianto, a powerful former general who was defeated in the 2014 presidential election by Mr. Widodo and is widely believed to be seeking a rematch in 2019. He hasn’t announced his intentions.