212 Islamist group turns back on W. Nusa Tenggara Governor TGB after he said he’d support Jokowi

West Nusa Tenggara Governor Tuan Guru Bajang. Photo: Instagram/@tgb.id
West Nusa Tenggara Governor Tuan Guru Bajang. Photo: Instagram/@tgb.id

President Joko Widodo may be Muslim, but that doesn’t necessarily mean next year’s election won’t be affected by attacks from from Islamic hardliners in a similar way to what happened during last year’s Jakarta gubernatorial election.

To many conservative Muslims in Indonesia, Jokowi and his government represent the “un-Islamic” choice next year. A recent illustration of this involves West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) Governor TGH Zainul Majdi, more popularly known as Tuan Guru Bajang (TGB), and how his recently stated support for Jokowi has cost him his once strong support among Islamists.

TGB — a young, rising politician particularly popular among Muslims who has been talked up as a likely candidate in next year’s presidential election — said on Tuesday that he wishes for Jokowi to be re-elected for a second term, mainly due to what he perceives as the president’s attentiveness to NTB.

“Eight times he (Jokowi) has visited NTB. He sees that in NTB there’s a real drive for building towards improving the quality of life. I see that he appreciates hard workers,” TGB said, as quoted by Liputan 6.

“Five years is not enough for transformation when the maximum term (for presidency) is 10 years. I think it’s very fair that we give him a chance to continue his work.”

TGB added that when he met Jokowi, the president held no grudge against him even though he was part of losing candidate Prabowo Subianto’s campaign team in NTB in the 2014 presidential election.

But now, those who once backed TGB are feeling betrayed. Chief among them is Persaudaraan Alumni 212 (PA 212), an umbrella group of hardline Islamists who were instrumental in orchestrating former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s downfall and eventual blasphemy conviction.

PA 212 had previously held TGB in very high regard.and was even included on a list of their top recommendations for presidential candidate, just behind Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab and Gerindra Chairman Prabowo Subianto. But after TGB expressed his support for Jokowi, PA 212 says it’s pulling their recommendation.

“We will cross him out if he is indeed a Jokowi supporter. Because for us not supporting Jokowi is harga mati (an Indonesian expression that roughly translates to “payable by death”, meaning absolutely non-negotiable),” said PA 212 Spokesperson Novel Bamukmin, as quoted by Detik yesterday.

Novel also denied that PA 212 ever had good relations with TGB, especially because the governor is a cadre of the Democratic Party. Novel said PA 212 aren’t big fans of the Democrats because, during its patron Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidency between 2004 and 2014, Rizieq Shihab was jailed three times for various crimes.

Opposition parties to Jokowi’s government, including Islamic parties like the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the National Mandate Party (PAN), also said they were surprised by TGB’s endorsement of Jokowi and criticized the governor’s apparent switch of allegiances.

Jokowi has quietly and somewhat surprisingly gathered the support of some of the nation’s most influential Islamic leaders in recent months, perhaps to preemptively curtail religious tension ahead of next year’s election. Some of these leaders include Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Chairman Ma’ruf Amin, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) leader Said Aqil Siradj, and former Muhammadiyah leader Ahmad Syafii Maarif — all of whom were controversially appointed to high-paying positions in a newly formed government agency.

One of Jokowi’s most vocal critics, Ali Mochtar Ngabalin, who was closely aligned with PA 212 and the opposition, was also recently appointed as one of the president’s spokespersons and is now, obviously, one of his most ardent supporters.

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