‘212’ anti-Ahok protests have led to increasing political intolerance in Indonesia: survey group

Indonesian protesters chant in front of a poster of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, as they march down the capital city’s main street after a demonstration at Jakarta’s National Monument Park on December 2, 2016. More than 100,000 Indonesian Muslims protested on December 2, 2016 against Jakarta’s Christian governor, the second major demonstration in a matter of weeks as conservative groups push for his arrest on accusations of insulting Islam. GOH CHAI HIN / AFP
Indonesian protesters chant in front of a poster of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, as they march down the capital city’s main street after a demonstration at Jakarta’s National Monument Park on December 2, 2016. More than 100,000 Indonesian Muslims protested on December 2, 2016 against Jakarta’s Christian governor, the second major demonstration in a matter of weeks as conservative groups push for his arrest on accusations of insulting Islam. GOH CHAI HIN / AFP

The massive protests that took place against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama during the 2017 gubernatorial race —  triggered by accusations that the Christian politician of Chinese-descent had committed blasphemy against Islam — are seen as defining events in modern Indonesian politics.

According to the results of a data analysis by a prominent survey group, the so-called 212 protests (named for the largest demonstration, which took place on 2/12/2016) has had the effect of making the country’s Muslims majority increasingly intolerant towards the political rights of those belonging to minority faiths.

Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a senior researcher at the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), said their survey data showed that Muslim respondents have shown increasingly extremists viewpoints in the wake of the protests that ultimately led to Ahok’s loss in the 2017 election and the two-year blasphemy sentence he is currently serving.

“There are claims from (Muslim scholars) saying the anti-Ahok demonstrations were a culmination of radicalism, but that is lacking justification. The opposite is true,” Burhanuddin said during a press conference at the Sari Pacific Hotel in Jakarta yesterday as quoted by Tempo.

According to LSI’s 2016 survey data, 48% of Muslim respondents said they would object if a non-Muslim became president of Indonesia. In 2017 that number increased to 53% and in their most recent data from this year that number increased again to 59%.

A similar increase could be seen in Muslim respondents’ acceptance of a non-Muslim vice president. In 2016, 41% said they’d object to a non-Muslim VP, which increased to 50% in 2017 and 55% in 2018. The same trend towards intolerance could be seen when it came to non-Muslims being governors, regents and mayors.

In connecting these increases to the 212 protests, it’s important to note that the blasphemy accusation against Ahok stemmed from the former governor’s reference to a Quranic verse that some interpret to mean that Muslims may not vote for non-Muslim candidates (but which many others do not). The 212 movement became not simply about defeating Ahok, but also pushing the politically convenient theological argument that Muslims may only vote for other Muslims, something LSI’s surveys seem to show they have done successfully.

In another sign that the increase in political intolerance was manufactured, LSI noted that opposite trends were seen in other intolerant attitudes towards minority faiths. For example, their surveys showed that, in 2010, 64% of Muslims objected to non-Muslims  building houses of worship in their neighborhoods. That figure actually decreased in 2011 to 61%, then down to 52% in 2016 and down again to 48% in in 2017 (although that number did see a slight slight increase to 52% in 2018).

A similar downward trend could also be seen in the percentage of Muslim respondents objecting to non-Muslims holding religious events, which dropped from 50% in 2011 to 38% in 2018.

A spokesperson for the hardliner-affiliated Alumni Brotherhood 212 political group, Novel Bamukmin (of Fitsa Hats fame), said that his group rejected LSI’s analysis and accused them of being a tool of President Joko Widodo’s administration.

“In regards to LSI, we strongly suspect that they did this survey on the order of the authorities to bring down the electability of legislative candidates, gubernatorial candidates and presidential candidates that oppose them, LSI has been tasked with driving votes to the authorities,” Novel told Detik today.

 

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