Religious minorities feel neglected in Jakarta election

Despite the three candidate pairs in the Jakarta gubernatorial election offering promises to various social and demographic groups across the capital, religious minority groups still feel left out as candidates seem to prefer wooing members of the majority community.

In the three months since the election campaign kicked off in late October, none of the three candidates, namely Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni, incumbent Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Saiful Hidayat and Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno, have specifically spoken about protecting religious minorities from intolerant groups, even in the face of a rising number of sectarian incidents in the city.

Human rights organization Setara Institute reported that 31 sectarian incidents occurred in Jakarta in 2016, putting it in second place as the most intolerant province after West Java with 41 cases. Jakarta had not been in the top 10 of the most intolerant provinces list since 2008, according to Setara Institute deputy director Bonar Tigor Naipospos.

The Ahmadiyah and Shia are just two of the religious minority groups that have often faced discrimination in the past.

The leader of East Jakarta’s Ahmadiyah community, Aryudi Prastowo, said the candidates should have spoken more about the issue of religious-minority rights because Jakarta was home to people from different religions and ethnic backgrounds.

“What makes Jakarta Jakarta is the minorities. If you wipe out all the minorities, Jakarta would no longer be Jakarta,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Aryudi said the Ahmadiyah community left its members to vote for whichever candidate they wished. Voters, however, were urged not to vote for candidates that were backed by intolerant groups, he added.

Similar to Aryudi, a prominent Shia figure in Jakarta, who preferred to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue, agreed that the issue of minority rights had only been minimally touched on during the campaign. He urged the administration to immediately take action to handle the increase in intolerance in the city.

According to Bonar Tigor Naipospos, the issue of minority rights had become very sensitive for the candidates as a result of the blasphemy charges against Ahok. Candidates were reluctant, Bonar said, to address this issue openly for fear of alienating voters.

However, Bonar warned that leaving the issue untouched would have worse consequences as it would provide more space for intolerant groups to pursue their own agenda and force that agenda later when a particular candidate was elected.

“It is unpopular to address it, but there is no way to avoid discussing it,” Bonar told the Post over the phone. “The candidates should have the courage to show that they are not going to tolerate any intolerant acts.”

Agus spoke about the importance of maintaining a harmonious and tolerant city in the first official debate on Jan. 13, without however, elaborating on how he would implement the concept and whether he would reject certain intolerant groups.

Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, previously said that every minority citizen like himself had the constitutional right to run for office. However, he has not taken a public stance about intolerance toward minority groups like the Shia or Ahmadiyah.

Anies once said that he would protect pluralism and “ensure every single law enforcement agency enforces the law” against groups carrying out intolerant acts. However, his visit to the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) headquarters was regarded by many as proof that he has a special relationship with the FPI, which in the past has raided places of worship belonging to minority groups.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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