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Twitter Suspends FPI Accounts, Internet Reacts With Dueling Hashtags

The hardline Islamist group was all over Twitter this morning.
January 16, 2017, 9:00am
Photo via Twitter account DPP__FPI

Update: The FPI's new Twitter account has been suspended too. 

Twitter suspended at least four high-profile accounts run by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) on Monday, including that of firebrand cleric and founder Habib Rizieq Shihab, as hundreds of hardliners gathered in the Indonesian capital to call for the dismissal of one of the country's top cops.

The accounts @DPP_FPI, @FPIonline, @HumasFPI, and @syihabrizieq were all suspended as of Monday morning. Within hours, the hashtag #IndonesiaTanpaRizieq ("Indonesia without Rizieq") was trending in Jakarta. The hardline group's supporters began tweeting out the rival hashtag #RakyatBersamaFPI ("The people are together with the FPI") and sharing the FPI's new Twitter handle @DPP__FPI (see the extra _ in there?).

The hardline group quickly blamed President Joko Widodo for the ban, posting an image on their new Twitter account that said the bans were a sign that the president, who is widely known as Jokowi, and embattled Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama were panicking.

"Mr Jokowi pretends not to notice that many Jokowers and Ahokers have long built JOK CYBER ARMY to proliferate FAKE NEWS and HOAXES and HATRED ," the image read. "However, when the MUSLIM CYBER ARMY exposed and tackled JOK CYBER ARMY, Mr Jokowi started to PANIC and ABUSE his POWERS."

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The bans were the latest blow for the increasingly active hardline group. The FPI rose to national prominence again in recent months after playing a central role in the protests against the Jakarta governor, a man popularly known as Ahok. After two successful demonstrations that pulled, by some estimates, as many as half a million Indonesian Muslims to the streets, an emboldened FPI began to raid malls in a war on Christmas that drew the police and the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) into the fray.

But within months, the FPI's founder Habib Rizieq was facing multiple police complaints, including allegations that he insulted founding father Sukarno, accused a secret communist cabal of inserting sickle and hammer icons on the new rupiah notes, and committing multiple acts of hate speech.

When Habib Rizieq appeared in Bandung, West Java, to be questioned by police over the allegations that he insulted both Sukarno and the country's founding constitution the Pancasila, he did so under heavy police presence as hundreds of FPI members gathered outside. The day took a turn when members of a rival West Java ormas showed up outside the station. The FPI was there to demand police let Habib Rizieq walk free. The rival Gerakan Masyarakat Bawah Indonesia (GMBI) wanted him locked up.

The two groups suddenly got into a brawl outside the police station. Someone in the FPI was stabbed. The next day, GMBI's secretariat office was burned to the ground. No one has been charged in connection to the fire.

Now, the FPI is protesting outside the National Police headquarters in South Jakarta to demand that the police fire West Java Police Chief Insp. Gen. Anton Charliyan over his inability to prevent the violence outside the Bandung police station. The FPI's new Twitter account was posting drone footage of the demonstration.

There were about 2,000 police officers and 500 members of the military on-location to stand guard during the protest. The demonstration was over by 2:30 p.m.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment before publication. The company's website explains that an account may be suspended "if it has been reported to us  as violating our Rules surrounding abuse. When an account engages in abusive behavior, like sending threats to others or impersonating other accounts, we may suspend it temporarily or, in some cases, permanently."