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Indonesian president inks decree to ban radical groups

Agence France-Presse

Indonesia has issued a decree allowing it to ban groups that oppose its official state ideology, in a move seen to target radical Islamists in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

The law, signed by President Joko Widodo in early July 2017, comes as concerns grow about the influence of hard-liners in Indonesia, where a majority of the population practices a moderate form of Islam.

It empowers the government to disband without trial any group that challenges Pancasila, a set of founding national principles that promote pluralism and tolerance. Pancasila is considered the unifying factor for a country home to significant Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities.

Security Minister Wiranto, who goes by one name, said the move was taken because some groups were “threatening the nation’s existence and creating conflict in the society.”

Neither Wiranto nor the decree name specific organizations. (Pictured: Indonesian Security Minister Wiranto, center left, accompanied by Information Minister Rudiantara, right, gestures as he speaks during a news conference announcing a presidential decree to amend an existing law regulating mass organization in Jakarta, Indonesia, in July 2017.)

Activists have said the move is aimed to disband Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the local branch of a radical Islamist group that seeks to unify all Muslims into a caliphate.

The government said in May 2017 it wanted to take legal steps to dissolve the group.

“This decree is merely a shortcut to disband HTI because if they use the old NGO [nongovernmental organization] law, it’s going to take a long time,” said legal expert Bivitri Susanti.

Mass organizations spreading ideologies such as atheism and communism are also banned under the decree. Rights activists warned that the decree could stifle a broad range of democratic institutions.

“Banning any organization strictly on ideological grounds, including Pancasila, is a draconian action that undermines rights of freedom of association and expression,” said Andreas Harsono, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Jakarta.

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