Hard-Line Muslim Groups Not Ready to Accept ‘Infidel’ as Jakarta’s Leader
Joko Widodo and deputy Basuki Tjahaja Purnama’s victory in Jakarta gubernatorial election has prompted an open-ended question regarding the Muslim majority’s degree of acceptance toward non-Muslim executive leaders.
On one hand the intellectual community has hailed Jakarta’s election result as a victory of democracy, pluralism, and meritocracy, given that Basuki’s ethnic and religious background did not seem to bother a majority of the voters. Many Jakarta voters opted for him due to his proven track record and vision despite the fact of his “double-minority” status — a Christian of Chinese ethnicity.
“Like it or not, Jakarta can become a barometer for Indonesia,” said Iberamsjah, a political expert from the University of Indonesia. “If a non-Muslim can be accepted in the capital, he or she should be accepted across the country. Don’t be surprised if more good, quality leaders from the minority groups emerge.”
On the other hand, however, pressure is growing within fundamentalist Muslim circles that are unwilling to accept a non-Muslim occupying the mayoralty or gubernatorial chairs to rule a Muslim-majority population.
They say that Joko’s victory, which propelled Basuki to prominence in the capital, spells danger for their future propagation efforts. The theory that these fundamentalists are promulgating is that Joko will not serve the full five-year term because he will be nominated by political parties to run for the presidency in 2014. That move would leave Jakarta’s governorship in the hands of Basuki.
Likewise, Joko’s chair in Solo will be automatically filled by vice mayor FX Rudyatmo, a Catholic who will lead a Muslim-majority population. This is unacceptable to some of the more hard-line Muslim groups.
They refer to Basuki and Rudyatmo as “infidels” who should not become their leaders at any cost.
On Monday, the Solo branch of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) said that it would set up a Shariah council in Solo to “respond to Jokowi-Basuki’s Jakarta election victory.”
“Establishment of this council is a clear rejection of [the plan to appoint] FX Rudyatmo as the mayor of Solo,” the publication Harian Jogya quoted Khoirul, commander of the Solo chapter of FPI, as declaring.
“Jokowi’s victory in Jakarta has caused FX Rudyatmo to be promoted as the mayor of Solo,” Khoirul said, calling the governor-elect by his nickname. “We cannot accept being led by an infidel. Muslims cannot be led by infidels. We will form a Shariah council to make Solo a Shariah city.”
The FPI leader said that this will lead to making Indonesia a Shariah-based state.
The council is to be established within a week’s time, he declared. He added that the council will not confront the government of Solo but will “work for the good of Muslims in Solo.”
Khoirul explained that after setting up the council in Solo, his organization would set up similar Shariah councils in other areas across Indonesia, beginning with Malang, Purworejo, Purbalingga and Tasikmalaya.
“The peak will be in 2014 when hopefully an imam [religious leader] will emerge to lead … one who is devoted and committed to fully imposing Islamic Shariah,” he stated.
His views were supported by Munarman, chairman of the Central Executive Board of the FPI in Jakarta, who said on Monday that the negative implications of Basuki’s victory in the Jakarta election included his exercising power over many Islamic organizations in the city.
“There are certain important positions in a number of organizations that must not be occupied by infidels when Basuki becomes vice governor,” he said when addressing an audience at Baiturrahman Mosque on Jalan Saharjo, South Jakarta.
Contrary to such radical views, Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) says that religion and ethnicity should never be made an issue in a democratic society.
NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj said that religious and ethnic slurs are no longer suitable in the present-day context of democratic Indonesia and this has been proven by the results of last week’s election.
Despite repeated campaigns against Basuki, the majority of voters opted for him and Joko because voters use sound rationale in making their choices, Aqil added.
Quoting Abul Abbas Taimiyah al-Harrani, also known as Ibnu Taimiyah, an Islamic philosopher from Turkey who died in 1328 after publishing the book Fiqh Khusyatah, the NU chairman said: “Justice brought forth by a non-Muslim is far better than injustice created by Muslims.”
Elaborating on this, Aqil Siradj said: “A good non-Muslim leader will act justly toward Muslims and a bad Muslim leader will act unjustly toward Muslims.”
“So, let Jokowi and Basuki lead Jakarta. NU has no objection,” said Aqil.
Many provinces and regencies are currently being led by non-Muslims but their religious and ethnic backgrounds have not become as much of an issue until Basuki entered the race in Jakarta — as if his Chinese name of Ahok is so nightmarish that one must be afraid of it, some analysts said.
Non-Muslim governors still in office include Barnabas Suebu in Papua, Teras Narang in Central Kalimatan, and Kornelis MH in West Kalimantan.
On district level, the chief executives represent different religions but their faiths have never become a reason for people to reject them.