In Jakarta, hardline Islamic groups have long argued that it was forbidden for a non-Muslim to become governor of the capital, based on a contentious interpretation of the Quran that was used to defeat former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja in this year’s election and later get him jailed for blasphemy. In the upcoming West Java governor race, widely expected to be the biggest Indonesian political story of 2018, it looks like gender is going to be the issue.
Yesterday, a union of 13 Islamic organizations called the Alliance of People who Care About West Java (AMPJ) publicly announced their rejection of female candidates in next year’s gubernatorial election in the province.
“Based on views of ulemas and the deep study done by Islamic organizations, we denounce and refuse female leadership in the West Java gubernatorial election in 2018,” said AMPJ chairman HM Roinul Balad, as quoted by Republika yesterday.
Ironically, it is the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamic political party, that looks set to nominate a woman, Netty Heryawan (who happens to be the wife of current governor Ahmad Heryawan) in next year’s election.
The AMPJ urged PKS to reconsider Netty’s potential nomination as they believe that there are still many men who are “more capable” of running a province of 45 million.
“Don’t they (PKS) have male cadres anymore?” asked HM Roinul Balad.
“Instinctively men are more capable, especially since the problems in West Java are heavier than anywhere else, including Jakarta.”
That said, HM Roinul Balad thoughtfully conceded that there are no prohibitions on women becoming leaders in a democracy, but that it’s still within the right of the Islamic organizations to complain about it.
Islamic scholars generally agree that women should not be appointed to positions of public office. However, Indonesia has had a female president in Megawati Soekarnoputri (2001-2004) and many respected female politicians, like current Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani, as well as historical feminist icons such as Kartini and Cut Nyak Meutia, despite being a Muslim majority country.
Gender is probably not going to be the only hot topic in next year’s West Java election. Last month, Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil, who is widely tipped to run in the election, was attacked by conservative Muslims for a false rumor that he issued numerous construction permits for non-Muslim houses of worship. Ridwan Kamil is Muslim.