Muslims support Ahok as new Jakarta governor despite his minority status

Sita W. Dewi, The Jakarta Post

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Prior to his inauguration as new Jakarta governor, acting governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, has received support from various Muslim communities — online and offline — despite his minority status.

A movement expressing support for Ahok, “I am Muslim and I support Ahok” has circulated on social media, in an apparent effort to counter the anti-Ahok movement launched by hard-line group the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

Over the weekend a group calling itself the Indonesia Volunteers Front unfolded a giant banner at the car-free day at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle and invited Jakarta residents to sign the banner, showing support for Ahok. Hundreds of signatures were collected on the day.

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On Monday, representatives of an Islamic group, Dzikrul Ghofilin, which claims to have thousands of followers, came to meet Ahok and directly conveyed their support for Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent. Group representative Muhammad Subchi said the group had decided to stand up and directly convey their support out of fears that the anti-Ahok movement would tarnish the image of Islam.

“The media has focused on the anti-Ahok movement launched by the FPI. It has tarnished Islam and is very bothering. Islam loves and teaches peace. I think I also have the right to explain about peaceful Islam so people won’t be confused,” he told reporters upon arrival at City Hall.

He said the group opposed the FPI’s stance, saying that the latter had violated the Constitution. “We have to abide by the rules in managing the state,” he said, adding that the state guaranteed each citizen’s rights regardless of religious background.

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Later in the day, Ahok attended the Muhammadiyah Students Association’s 19th congress at Uhamka University in East Jakarta and spoke before the association leaders from across the country. Muhammadiyah is one of the country’s largest Muslim organizations.

Ahok, who was invited as a keynote speaker, declined to deliver a speech and instead asked the forum to ask him questions. Hundreds of audience members were enthusiastic, asking him various questions on leadership, corruption and politics.

A female student from Depok, West Java, for example, asked him how the younger generation could contribute to society amid growing political indifference caused by rampant corruption involving politicians. Ahok used the occasion to persuade the students to consider entering politics.

“I was also skeptical at first. But history has shown that everywhere in the world including in Indonesia, the youth were the ones who brought about changes. I am here today, partly because I want to persuade you to enter politics in the future. We need young politicians who are clean and honest to make changes. We can’t continue to help the underprivileged by ourselves because we have limited resources,” he said, adding that Indonesia needed good leaders.

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He also impressed the audience by asking thought-provoking questions regarding the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and even citing Koranic verses occasionally while explaining his political philosophy.

He also highlighted the fact that he enrolled in Islamic schools and learned about Islam from a local religious leader back in his hometown of East Belitung, Bangka Belitung, a predominantly Muslim province.

“People say that I am a lot like a Muslim. What I lack is merely hidayah [the calling],” he said, to which several members of the audience responded by asking why he had not already converted.

Ahok calmly answered, “even the Prophet Muhammad wept as he himself was unable to convert his uncle Abu Tholib until his death, this was followed by Allah saying ‘the calling is all Mine’,” he said, to which the audience responded with applause.

Former association chairman Raja Juli Antoni, who led the forum, said the enthusiasm expressed by the audience was a sign that society longed for honest leaders, regardless of their religious backgrounds.

This story first appeared in The Jakarta Post

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