FB angers Jakarta Islamists 

Hundreds of hardline Muslims have rallied against Facebook in Jakarta, accusing the social-media giant of blocking their accounts and threatening to lobby for it to be banned from the Indonesia. 

The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) said Facebook had blocked about 70 of their online groups while allowing rival groups to operate.

They carried banners saying things like “Don’t persecute Muslims” and “Please don’t judge our status on Facebook” and gave the tech firm until until Monday to lift the bans.

“We want to remind Facebook to remain neutral and balanced,” said Slamet Maarif, an FPI spokesman.

“There are many accounts that spread hate about Islam, ulamas, that are allowed to operate. There are accounts that talk about Islamic humanitarian aid, those are blocked,” said Maarif.

Maarif asked why Facebook had blocked the group’s accounts while allowing ones that denounced its leaders and Islam to continue operations.

He adding that the group still intended to use the addictive site and intended to open fresh groups. And live video streams by protesters of the rally were uploaded to Facebook.

After midday prayers on Friday, the group marched from the Al-Azar Great Mosque to Facebook’s office.

The group wants to impose Shariah law and has vandalised nightspots, stoned western embassies and attacked rival religious groups.

A Facebook statement said: “We allow people to use Facebook to challenge ideas and raise awareness about important issues, but we will remove content that violates our community standards.

“Our community standards prohibit organisations and people to promote hatred and violence against people based on their protected characteristics.”

Indonesian groups use social media as an organisational tool for political and religious rallies.

Indonesia’s communications ministry said no request had been made for the FPI accounts to be closed.

FPI previously had about 100 accounts on Facebook and also uses Twitter.

The rally was peaceful, which was unsurprising as more than 1,200 police officers outnumbered the protesters.

In mid-2017 it was estimated by social-media giant that Indonesia had 115 million Facebook users, ranking the country fourth after the US, India and Brazil.

President Joko Widodo has expressed concern about fake news and hate-speech spread online and has pledged to “clobber” any group undermining Indonesia’s tradition of pluralism and moderate Islam.

At a protest last month in Jakarta condemning Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Muslim clerics have called for a boycott of US and Israeli products unless Washington withdraws the directive.

There is no evidence any such ban is gaining ground.

Religion is expected to play a significant role in campaigning for provincial elections next month and the 2019 presidential election.


Islamist protests in Jakarta last year. Picture credit: Wikimedia