The Indonesian Council of Ulema said on Tuesday that Muslims could vote for non-Muslim candidates in elections under certain conditions.
“If the [non-Muslim] candidate has been proven to be a just person, then [Muslims] can vote for a non-Muslim,” Amidhan, head of the Islamic council known as MUI, told Antara state news agency. “Indonesia is a democratic nation, not an Islamic nation.”
Amidhan said that if voters had to choose between a Muslim candidate with poor morals and a non-Muslim candidate, they should vote for the latter.
“But only if there’s evidence that the non-Muslim leader is a just person,” he said.
Even though Muslims were not required to vote for a Muslim leader, he added, the tendency to choose a candidate with the same religion was normal.
“Jewish people would [tend to] vote for a Jewish leader and Christians would vote for a Christian leader,” he said.
As Jakarta gubernatorial candidates Joko Widodo and incumbent Fauzi Bowo continue their campaigns, religion has become a hot topic.
Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, is running on a ticket with Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who is Christian. The pair earned the most votes in the first round of elections and will compete in the second round on Sept. 20.
Dangdut singer Rhoma Irama was recently summoned by the Jakarta Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) for allegedly campaigning against Jokowi and Ahok by preaching that Muslims would become enemies of God if they did not vote for a Muslim candidate.
Amidhan said Rhoma did not make a mistake in his statement because the dangdut singer had been speaking at a mosque.
However, the MUI chief urged participants in the gubernatorial race to refrain from campaigning on issues of ethnicity, religion, race or societal groups.