FPI members questioned for flying IS flags

FPI members questioned for flying IS flags
The Islamic State flag.

The Makassar City Police are investigating processions held by the South Sulawesi chapter of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) in Makassar on Saturday, while flying flags typically used by the Islamic State (IS) organisation.

South Sulawesi Police chief spokesman Sr. Comr. Endi Sutendi confirmed speculation on Monday that the police had issued a permit to the FPI to hold a seminar and convoy as they claimed they were only campaigning for Muslim leadership.

"Unexpectedly, when they took to the streets in a procession, they carried IS flags. The Makassar City Police are currently investigating the case. We will speak with the rally coordinator," said Endi.

The FPI held the public seminar because they wanted to discuss Muslim leadership at the FPI regional headquarters on Jl. Sungai Limboto, Makassar. There were several speakers including FPI central board nahiy munkar (evil deed prevention) head Munarman.

After the seminar, they then held a procession around the city while carrying a black flag, usually flown by IS.

They stopped on Jl. Nusantara in front of the Soekarno-Hatta Port in Makassar, addressed the crowd and installed banners in favour of Makassar Mayor Mohammad Ramdhan Pomanto's policy of converting the area, notorious as a red-light district, into a culinary area.

When questioned on Monday, FPI South Sulawesi chapter legion commander Abdul Rahman, who led the convoy, denied that the rally was done in support of IS, but said the convoy brought along the flag as part of an effort to familiarize the public, most of which has so far regarded the words written on the flag as those of terrorists, whereas in fact the flag is a banner of Islamic.

"We wish to convey to the public that the flag, thus far used by IS, is simply a flag, or banner of Islam. The flag has existed since Prophet Muhammad's era and has always been flown by the Prophet's companions," said Rahman.

So far, added Rahman, the public had been influenced by others into believing that the flag was synonymous with terrorism.

"We want to straighten this out. We fear that the public would be afraid, or against tauhid (monotheistic) phrases, whereas in fact such phrases are always expressed by Muslims. So, I emphasise that the rally and the flag have no connection with IS," he said.

According to Rahman, the convoy, involving around 100 people, had three aspirations.

Apart from familiarizing the public with the flag, typically flown by IS, as an Islamic banner, the FPI also condemned the cartoonist who insulted the Prophet Muhammad in France and supported the Makassar mayor's decision to convert the area around Jl. Nusantara into a culinary area.

Rahman acknowledged he had received a summons from the Makassar City Police concerning the convoy held on Jan. 24.

"I'm ready to fulfil the call and explain the convoy," he said.

He added that he would also visit editorial offices in Makassar to clarify reports regarding the act.

Flying IS flags by supporters of the group, which was earlier known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is not new despite the government ban.

On Aug. 4, last year, the government officially announced the ban on support for IS and warned citizens not to join the rebel group's fight in Syria and Iraq.

Last June, in Malang, East Java, a group named Anharul Khilafah reportedly declared its support for ISIL at an event in a mosque in June despite resistance from local residents.

IS flags were found during the arrests of wanted suspected terrorists in Ngawi, East Java, and Jatiasih, Bekasi, West Java, in August.

Two weeks ago, a planned mass gathering of supporters of IS at a mosque in Semarang was cancelled. The gathering was reportedly organised Jammah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), an organisation established by cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who is serving a 15-year sentence for terrorism-related offences in Nusakambangan prison, Central Java.

FPI hold public seminar on need to for Muslim leadership 'Banner of Islam' has always been flown by Prophet's companions.

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