A senior official from the hard-line Islamic group Islamic Defenders Front who became the target of an assault on Sunday afternoon said he was not the one who riled up fellow motorists stuck in a traffic jam.
Instead, Munarman, FPI’s secretary general and paramilitary commander, on Monday said that a “stressed-out man” on a motorcycle had been honking at him all along Jalan Bandung in Pamulang, South Tangerang.
When they came to a halt because of heavy traffic, he said, the motorcyclist came up and smashed one of the head lamps on his car.
“When I got out to try and catch the guy, these kampung thugs suddenly appeared and acted all tough,” Munarman said. “Maybe they thought that I’d hit the motorcyclist, but I didn’t. They beat me up.”
He said he immediately filed a report with the Pamulang sub-precinct police, but later withdrew it.
“You know yourselves what a hassle it is dealing with the cops,” he said. “I may have gotten hit, but I could handle it. They didn’t land any knockout blows.”
Pamulang Police Chief Comr. Mohamad Nasir had given media a different version of events. He said the incident began when Munarman, stuck in traffic, kept repeatedly honking his horn.
“He was upset and disappointed because he was in a rush and no one was giving way. So he kept on honking,” Nasir told newsportal Detik.com.
Five men then surrounded his car and asked him why he was honking during a traffic jam. In the middle of the argument, the men smashed a window on Munarman’s car and spat on him. Munarman tried to run away, but the five men chased him and beat him up, reportedly leaving him with extensive bruising.
The incident is an ironic turn for the senior FPI official, whose organization has long courted criticism over its unprovoked vigilante attacks against legitimate businesses, church congregations, minority Islamic groups and religious freedom advocates.
Munarman was previously jailed for an attack in June 2008 on members of the National Alliance for Religious Freedom, who were holding a peaceful rally at the National Monument in Jakarta to urge greater religious tolerance.
A year earlier, he was reported to the police following a traffic altercation with a Blue Bird cab during which he was said to have hit the driver and forcibly taken the car’s registration paper, or STNK.
In February last year, he garnered national attention by threatening to overthrow the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono if the government made any attempt to rein in the FPI and other hard-line Islamic groups.
More recently, the FPI was involved in an unprovoked attack on an Ahmadiyah mosque in Bandung on the eve of Idul Adha last month, one of the holiest days in the Islamic calendar. Only one of the attackers has been charged in the incident.
Last week, the organization said it was recruiting volunteers to send to Gaza to wage jihad against Israel. Munarman was among the first to sign up.