JAKARTA, Indonesia — The Indonesian government on Wednesday banned Hizbut Tahrir, an organization that wants to establish a global caliphate, under a new presidential decree criticized as draconian by rights groups.
Hizbut’s legal status had been revoked to protect national unity, said Freddy Haris, a director-general at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, at a brief news conference.
The decree signed last week by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo gives the government almost unfettered power to ban organizations deemed against the constitution and the official state ideology Pancasila. Rights group say governments could easily abuse the decree’s power.
The measures follow months of sectarian tensions that shook the government and undermined Indonesia’s reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam.
Hizbut Tahrir, along with groups such as the violent Islamic Defenders Front, was behind a series of massive protests against the Jakarta governor, a minority Christian and Jokowi ally who was accused of blaspheming Islam. He subsequently lost a bid for re-election to a Muslim candidate and was imprisoned for two years for blasphemy despite prosecutors downgrading the charge to a lesser offense.
Hizbut, already banned or circumscribed in some countries, is estimated to have tens of thousands of members in Indonesia