JAKARTA, Indonesia – Conservative Islamic groups protested Tuesday in the capital of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, denouncing President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's attempt to ban radical organizations.
Demonstrators from an alliance of Islamic groups waved flags and held up banners calling the government tyrannical and repressive.
The crowd, which swelled to an estimated 2,000 people, was divided into separate rows for men and women and was mostly peaceful, said Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono.
A decree signed by Jokowi last week that amends a law regulating mass organizations will give the government almost unfettered power to ban groups it deems contrary to the country's constitution. Parliament has one year to reject or approve it.
It is likely that Hizbut Tahrir, a group that campaigns for Indonesia to adopt Shariah law, is among the targets of the decree, with the government announcing in May that it planned to ban the organization.
"Jokowi's anti-Islam decree is proof this is a dictatorial regime," a rally coordinator, Kholilulloh Al-Habsyi, told the crowd from a truck.
Rights groups have criticized the decree as a draconian and anti-democratic measure and say governments could easily abuse its power.
Jokowi's measure followed months of sectarian tensions in Jakarta that shook the government and undermined the country'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 in Jakarta, the capital, against the city's minority Christian governor, an ally of Jokowi 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, a global organization that is already banned or circumscribed in some countries, is estimated to have tens of thousands of members in Indonesia.