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