Today, Indonesia is holding simultaneous regional elections across the country, but the one being watched most closely is the governor’s race is taking place in West Java, the country’s most populous and thus most politically important region. According to several polls, the front runner candidate going into today’s voting is Ridwan Kamil, the popular mayor of the West Java capital of Bandung.
Although the former architect earned his popularity in Bandung thanks to his technocratic approach to governance and innovative policies, he has faced numerous conservative attacks based on social and religious issues in the gubernatorial race, many of which are based on inaccurate information if not hoaxes.
In a tweet posted to his official Twitter account yesterday, Ridwan’s social media team issued a statement denying some of the many accusations against their candidate. The nature of the attacks, and the official responses from the politician who was once seen as a progressive by many, should give you a pretty good idea about the sad state of Indonesian politics.
*ADMIN* Sehubungan begitu banyaknya gibah/fitnah yang beredar menjelang pencoblosan. Maka atas izin kang Emil, tim Admin Twitter akun ini merilis KUNCI JAWABAN terhadap semua fitnah/Gibah tersebut. Silakan pilih soalnya, disana ada penjelasan dan jawabannya. pic.twitter.com/oEQJlKDRqA
— ridwan kamil (@ridwankamil) June 26, 2018
The release included as photos in the tweet begins by stating that Ridwan has been the mayor of Bandung since 2013 but also mentions that he is the grandson of KH Muhjiddin, a respected Islamic scholar from Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia and the world’s largest Sunni Muslim organization. This is apparently important to mention since several of the attacks answered in the release question Ridwan’s status as a true conservative Sunni Muslim.
In fact, the fourth attack addressed in the release is “They say RK is Shia or a supporter of Shia”. Shia Muslims are a tiny minority in Indonesia and are despised by many Sunni. The release answers by saying RK is in fact Sunni Aswaja and is patron to eight Sunni Aswaja boarding schools (pesantren) and invites people to Google “RK Sunni Shia” for clarification.
The next attack noted in the release is “They say RK is pro-LGBT”. The vast majority of Indonesians, including those in West Java, are virulently opposed to gay rights and feel threatened by the LGBT community. In response, the release says Ridwan is against anything prohibited in the Quran and notes that he was “brave” enough to shut down LGBT spa/cafes in Bandung and that he was attacked by pro-LGBT forces for trying to stop their campaigns on social media.
On top of trying to firmly establish his intolerance of the persecuted LGBT minority, the release also denies that Ridwan is against the 212 Islamist political movement and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) — even though the conservative religious attacks on his campaign were pulled from the same 212 protest playbook used by FPI and other hardliners to defeat former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in the 2017 election. The release even apologizes for a 2010 tweet from Ridwan criticizing the FPI.
The last two points addressed in the release are “They say RK is a liberal who doesn’t care about Islam” and “They say RK gave permission for 300 churches”. His team replies by saying that Ridwan has given permission for some 4,000 mosques to be built in Bandung during his time as mayor and that the 300 churches he also gave permission to was proportional.
That Ridwan has to defend himself against accusations that he is too tolerant of other religions and minorities is sad enough, but his responses are even sadder. Pandering to the worst instincts of the majority may win him the election, but at what cost?