The article discusses a particular Islamist militant movement in Indonesia, the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, or FPI). Gaining considerable following and influence in post-Suharto Indonesia, the FPI called for the implementation of Sharia law addressing the existential worries and moral concerns of lower-class Muslims. Under the leadership of Habib Rizieq Syihab, an Indonesian of Hadhrami descent, the FPI attracted particular attention because of its use of violence against minority groups and so-called immoral businesses, such as cafés, bars, and nightclubs. However, as this article shows, their violent acts have sparked considerable controversy in Indonesia, as many Indonesians began to question the role of Rizieq in particular in the violence and of Arab Indonesians in general. Examining the growth of the organization and Rizieq’s rise to leadership, the article thereafter analyzes the various responses both by indigenous Indonesian Muslims and by Indonesian Hadhramis to the FPI’s violent activities. By paying specific attention to the voices of indigenous non-Arab Muslims, this article portrays Muslim resentment toward Rizieq not only in terms of his persistent use of violence but also with regard to his background as a Hadhrami Arab. This analysis brings to light prejudices and stereotypes that are directed against Arabs and that have their roots in the colonial period but are nevertheless present in today’s Indonesia. Furthermore, by focusing on critical Hadhrami voices, the article points to new divisions inside Indonesia’s Hadhrami community, particularly among the Ba’alawi or sada, that is, those Hadhramis who—like Rizieq—claim descent from the prophet Muhammad.

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