Police Chiefs Reported for Quashing Book Discussion
Members of the Salihara cultural center filed a complaint against Pasar Minggu, where the center is located, and the South Jakarta police chiefs on Thursday for quashing a book discussion featuring liberal Canadian Muslim activist Irshad Manji last week.
“[The police] unfairly sided with the group that wants to dissolve Irshad’s book discussion,” said Nirwan Dewanto, program director of Salihara cultural center. “They were not professional by letting the demonstrators into the yard of the Salihara building, who destroyed the fence and disturbed public order.”
Nirwan said police intimidated attendees and offered them no protection, and even threatened to forcefully take Irshad away if the participants of the discussion refused to leave.
“That’s why we reported Pasar Minggu and the South Jakarta police chiefs to the police’s Bureau of Professionalism and Security Affairs, because they failed to protect, provide security and instead dissolved the discussion.”
But South Jakarta police chief Imam Sugianto said he was not overly concerned. “They have the right to report,” Imam said. “I will just face it because we have a reason for what we did.”
The planned book discussion by Canadian Irshad Manji with the title of “Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom” last week was heavily protested by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR).
These organizations accused Irshad of trying to promote homosexuality and liberal Islamic teachings.
Irshad had only spoken for about 15 minutes when the police interrupted her, announcing that the event should be called off because hundreds of members of the FBI and FBR had congregated outside the building and demanded an end to the event.
Manji was escorted out of Salihara under heavy police guard.
Police said that Salihara breached a law on assembly by failing to report that they planned to feature Irshad as a speaker. But Nirwan denied that approval was needed from the police.
“No regulation was breached,” Nirwan said. “Permits to conduct events only apply when an institution conducts an event with more than 300 people. It was only 120-150 people attending [the discussion].”