JAKARTA (Reuters) - Hundreds of members of Indonesia’s Islamic Defenders Front FPI.L rallied in the capital on Thursday to press the government to ban alcohol as part of its drive to turn the fourth largest country in the world into an Islamic state.
Indonesia is a secular state with the world’s biggest population of Muslims, most of whom are moderate.
The FPI protest group has in recent years raided bars, nightclubs and the office of Indonesia’s Playboy magazine, though it has had limited success in achieving its central aims.
It is separate from a series of small, banned militant groups, some of which are affiliated with al Qaeda and have carried out bomb attacks. An attack on nightclubs in Bali in 2002 killed more than 200 people.
The FPI on Thursday protested against a plan by the interior ministry to revoke anti-alcohol bylaws in several areas of Indonesia on the grounds that the laws were in violation of Islamic sharia law.
Some of the protesters outside the interior ministry in the city’s main square wore white robes with the word “mujahideen” emblazoned on their shirts.
“President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must issue a decree to ban alcohol and to cut alcohol distribution in Indonesia to zero percent,” said FPI field coordinator Awit Mashuri.
“We will defend anti-alcohol bylaws and we will fight anything that is against the interests of Islam in Indonesia,” Zulfi Syukur told the cheering crowd, many of whom pumped their fists in the air and shouted “jihad”, or holy war.
Later, some people at the rally vandalised a security post outside the interior ministry and threw plastic bottles, according to Reuters witnesses.
Interior Minister Gamawan Fauzi told local media on Thursday he had no plan to revoke the bylaws.
Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Additional reporting by Tommy Ardiansyah and Johan Wijaya; Editing by Matthew Bigg and Ron Popeski