04/06/2017, 18.54
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Jakarta slam the use of religion for political ends

by Mathias Hariyadi

Islamic extremists are trying to influence the elections. Many voters criticise the political manipulation of religion. It is wrong to use religion “incite hatred and resentment," said People's Consultative Assembly chairman Zulkifli Hasan. "Sectarian issues have used up our energy," added Budi Arie Setiadji.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Against a backdrop of greater social consciousness, many Jakartans reject the political manipulation of religion. A sign of this are the number of banners that have appeared in some strategic locations around the city. “We, Jakartans, are fed up with sectarian issues” read some. This comes two weeks before local elections on 19 April.

Some of the banners were raised on pedestrian bridges near Bank Indonesia and Hotel Indonesia, both in Central Jakarta, as well as Slipi Jaya, West Jakarta. However, yesterday afternoon, the city police (Satpol PP) and the General Elections Supervisory Board (Bawaslu), removed the banners because they had not been authorised.

This year’s election is different from previous ones. In fact, at no other time have Islamists manipulated sectarian issues than in this poll, which sees Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, running for re-election as the capital’s governor.

According to many commentators, the banners are aimed at Anies Baswedan, Ahok’s rival. Jakartans did not like the way he has been using sectarian issues to boost his popularity among Muslims, especially the more extremist.

A number of political leaders welcomed the grassroots action against the exploitation of religious sentiments for political gain.

At a seminar today in Jakarta, Zulkifli Hasan, head of Indonesia’s People's Consultative Assembly, led the way in critiquing the manipulation of religion. "Every religion,” he said, “teaches good values, but during the Jakarta’s elections something wrong happened as religion is used to incite hatred and resentment."

Budi Arie Setiadji, head of President Jokowi Supporters Club, noted yesterday that the appearance of anti-sectarianism banners is a clear sign that Jakarta's residents are really fed up with the "tricks" used by some groups to promote their candidate. "Sectarian issues have used up our energy," he lamented.

According to Setiadji, voters are smart now. They vote for candidates who show an ability to make radical changes to Jakarta, and make the city a better place to live and work. "Sectarian issues should not divide Indonesians. Threatening gestures should not spread fear among voters,” he said.

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