FPI leader calls for withdrawal of banknotes with ‘communist symbol’

Staying defiant -- Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Habib Rizieq Shihab gives a press statement after his questioning at the Jakarta Police headquarters on Monday. Image: Reno Esnir/Jakarta Post/Antara

By Safrin La Batu in Jakarta

Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab has called on the Indonesian government to pull from circulation the newly-issued rupiah banknotes, which he claims have an image that resembles the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party’s (PKI) hammer and sickle logo.

Rizieq attended on Monday the Jakarta police’s summons for questioning on his statement, during which he brought several new rupiah banknotes, from Rp 1000 (less than NZ$1) to Rp 100,000 (NZ$10) bills, and showed them to investigators to try to prove his claims.

Rizieq said the banknotes’ rectoverso image, which according to Bank Indonesia (BI) functions as an anti-counterfeit feature, resembled the PKI logo.

“We ask the government to explain to us why, from thousands of rectoverso images they could have used, they chose the one that looks like a hammer and sickle logo. This is dangerous,” Rizieq told reporters.

“We ask the government to retract all new banknotes, from the Rp 1,000 to Rp 100,000 bills, because they can all give the perception that there is a hammer and sickle logo on our banknotes,” said the firebrand preacher, who had to answer 23 questions from the police regarding his statement.

In an earlier statement, the bank brushed off Rizieq’s claim, saying that the rectoverso image on the bills was actually the central bank’s logo printed in such a way to protect the money from counterfeiting.

Mass organisation Jaringan Intelektual Muda Anti-Fitnah (Young Intellectuals Anti-Slander Network, or Jimaf) reported Rizieq to the police, in which they said the FPI leader’s statement constituted hate speech because his claim was baseless and could provoke public unrest.

Jakarta Police spokesman Senior Commander Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono said Rizieq’s status was still that of a witness.

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