When disaster hits, Indonesia's Islamists are first to help

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FILE - In this May 3, 2013, file photo, members of the militant Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) shout slogan during a demonstration in Jakarta, Indonesi

FILE - In this May 3, 2013, file photo, members of the militant Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) shout slogan during a demonstration in Jakarta, Indonesi

FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2013, file photo, Indonesian police officers block members of the militant Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) during a demonstratio

FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2013, file photo, Indonesian police officers block members of the militant Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) during a demonstratio

FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2012, file photo, a Muslim protester of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) wears a mock-suicide bomb during a demonstration against I

FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2012, file photo, a Muslim protester of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) wears a mock-suicide bomb during a demonstration against I

FILE - In this May 4, 2011, file photo, a member of radical group Islam Defenders Front walks past posters of Osama Bin laden and U.S. President Barac

FILE - In this May 4, 2011, file photo, a member of radical group Islam Defenders Front walks past posters of Osama Bin laden and U.S. President Barac

In this Oct. 2, 2018 photo, volunteers of the humanitarian wing of the Islamic Defenders Front examine the damage caused by the earthquake and liquefa

In this Oct. 2, 2018 photo, volunteers of the humanitarian wing of the Islamic Defenders Front examine the damage caused by the earthquake and liquefa

In this April 3, 2019, photo, local fishermen pull a boat to the beach as a mosque heavily damaged by the 2018 earthquake and tsunami is seen in the b

In this April 3, 2019, photo, local fishermen pull a boat to the beach as a mosque heavily damaged by the 2018 earthquake and tsunami is seen in the b

In this April 2, 2019, photo, a member of Islamic Defenders Front paints their group's logo as they help local fishermen to build boats at a fishing v

In this April 2, 2019, photo, a member of Islamic Defenders Front paints their group's logo as they help local fishermen to build boats at a fishing v

In this April 2, 2019, photo, members of Islamic Defenders Front paint their group's logo as they help local fishermen to build boats at a fishing vil

In this April 2, 2019, photo, members of Islamic Defenders Front paint their group's logo as they help local fishermen to build boats at a fishing vil

In this April 2, 2019, photo, members, center, of Islamic Defenders Front help local fishermen to build boats at a fishing village affected by the 201

In this April 2, 2019, photo, members, center, of Islamic Defenders Front help local fishermen to build boats at a fishing village affected by the 201

In this Oct. 2, 2018, photo, a Muslim volunteer of the humanitarian wing of the Islamic Defenders Front takes a break near body bags containing the re

In this Oct. 2, 2018, photo, a Muslim volunteer of the humanitarian wing of the Islamic Defenders Front takes a break near body bags containing the re

PALU, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's Islamic Defenders Front is perhaps best known for its vigilante actions against gays, Christmas decorations and prostitution.

But over the past 15 years it has repurposed its militia into a force that's as adept at searching for victims buried under earthquake rubble and distributing aid as it is at inspiring fear.

In the process it has become an influential player in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation and an accelerant in the country's decades-old cultural war.

Last year saw an earthquake and tsunami hit Palu, earthquakes ravage Lombok and a tsunami wreak havoc on the Sunda Strait coastline. The front was there at each disaster, searching for victims, distributing aid and building temporary housing.

Such activities amplify the hard-line message that religion, not government is the answer.