10/09/2012, 00.00
INDONESIA

Muslim extremists in the streets against Jakarta's (Christian) deputy governor

Mathias Hariyadi
The inauguration ceremony for the capital's new leaders has been postponed from 7 to 15 October. Government sources say the decision is administrative. In reality, it is due to protests by extremists who want non-Muslims banned from all key positions of responsibility.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The decision by Indonesia's Interior Minister to postpone from 7 to 15 October the inauguration of Joko Widodo and Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, as Jakarta's new governor and deputy governor, has stirred a hornets' nest.

Government sources claim that the inauguration of Jokowi and Ahok (as their popularly known) has been delayed due to administrative reasons. However, for many ordinary Indonesians, the reason is quite different. The government's decision to suspend the ceremony is due to other factors, namely a campaign by Muslim extremists against the deputy governor, guilty in their eyes for being Christian and of Chinese origins.

For days in fact, fundamentalist groups and movements have been mobilised against the capital's new leaders because "they are not an expression of Islam".

Joko Widodo is the outgoing governor of Jolo (central Java). Although a practicing Muslim, he is also a liberal. His deputy, Basuki Tjahaja Purnawa, is Christian and an ethnic Chinese, born in South Sumatra. Both Widodo and Purnawa have even been touted as possible candidates in the 2014 presidential elections.

The campaign against the Jokowi and Ahok ticket, especially against the Christian leader, has taken on a sense of urgency as hundreds of members of the Islamic Defence Front (FPI) invaded the streets to protest.

Gathered in front of Jakarta Provincial Legislative Council, Islamists warned government authorities that the new deputy governor will, as part of his mandate, manage 12 local agencies, including some Muslim organisations.

From their point of view, it is unacceptable that a non-Muslim should play any role in the life of Muslims, like supervising the language of the Qur'an or prayers. Instead, they want the government to ban non-Muslims from all key positions, including in the capital.

Indeed, the recent election campaign was marred from start to end by personal attacks against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama because of his religion and ethnic origins. Defamatory articles appeared in the press as his critics hurled abusive slogans at him.

Like before, sectarian tensions threatened confessional peace. In the past in fact, Chinese-Indonesians, both Christian and Buddhist, came under attack.

In May 1998, when strongman Suharto still ruled the country, thousands of them were violently and brutally attacked.

Over the years, such actions continued, a sign of how frail Indonesia's social fabric is.

 

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