Muhammad Rizieq Shihab (left) celebrated his daughter’s wedding and the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday on Nov 14 | Photo: Konradus Epa/UCA News

By Katharina R Lestari

Nov 17 2020

President comes under fire for not stopping event organized by firebrand cleric amid Covid-19 restrictions

JAKARTA – A human rights group has strongly criticized Indonesian President Joko Widodo for failing to impose Covid-19 social distancing rules by banning an event organized by the leader of a notorious hardline Islamic group that attracted large crowds.

Muhammad Rizieq Shihab of the Islamic Defenders Front, who returned home from self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia last week after fleeing Indonesia in 2017 to avoid a pornography case, celebrated his daughter’s wedding on Nov. 14 in Jakarta.

Thousands of hardline Muslims attended the event, which also commemorated the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

State negligence in handling such huge crowds has become a paradox of the president’s political leadership and his administration in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace chairman Hendardi said in a statement,.

“This truly shows this administration’s mismanagement, which hurts doctors and nurses who continue to fight, students forced to study at home as well as those who were laid off because of the pandemic,” Hendardi said.

“He [Widodo], as a president, must immediately order the national police chief to take action against such huge crowds, while the home affairs minister should punish timid local leaders who ignored the event.”

National Covid-19 Task Force chief Doni Monardo told journalists that the event was not legal. “The government of Jakarta province never allowed it,” he said.

He said Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan had fined the organizer 50 million rupiah (US$3,536).

Shihab acknowledged the sheer number of guests made it difficult to impose social distancing restrictions.

“We had wanted our [guests] to sit one meter apart,” The Jakarta Post quoted him as saying. “This is what my [supporters’] enthusiasm looks like. I hope we will be delivered from any diseases and that Allah will soon eradicate the coronavirus pandemic.” 

As of Nov. 15, Indonesia had recorded 467,113 coronavirus cases and 15,211 deaths. – UCANews