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Police question activist’s book-launch organizers

South Jakarta Police are questioning the organizers of Canadian author Irshad Manji’s terminated book launch and discussion at a Salihara venue in South Jakarta, which was broken up shortly before the liberal Muslim was due to speak.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

7th May 2012 05:46

Alessia Valenza | ILGA Asia

Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said Saturday that committee members were being questioned about why they held an event involving a foreign national without requesting a permit from police. According to Rikwanto, such permits are necessary for those who wish to hold a public event, including events involving foreign nationals.

He also said the event was not terminated because of pressure from hard-line group the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and that police took full responsibility for the action.

“In fact, only around 20 [FPI] members were present there and most of the people protesting the event last night were residents living in the neighborhood,” he added.

On Friday, Manji was scheduled to speak at the launch of her new book titled Allah, Liberty and Love. The event sparked protests from Pasar Minggu residents angry that Manji was known as a lesbian activist, with some FPI members joining them to voice their opposition.

According to a press release from the committee, Pasar Minggu police precinct chief Comr. Adri Desas Puryanto and his entourage came to the venue at around 6:30 p.m., followed by FPI South Jakarta branch chief Heri and Salihara neighborhood unit leader Khaeruddin. They demanded that the committee cancel the discussion because they thought the event was held by transgendered people.

“After [an organizer] Guntur explained that [the allegation was not true] and that it was a book discussion, they diverted the issue to permits and Manji’s nationality,” the committee said, adding that the police later requested the committee to halt the event until they had the permit.

Manji is scheduled to speak at several other occasions in Jakarta on Saturday, including those hosted by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Jakarta branch and the feminist Jurnal Perempuan Foundation, and in Surakarta, Central Java. The committee said that its legal team had proposed changes to the venues. (sat/swd)