The New York Times called Jakarta’s recent election “religiously tinged”, The Australian wrote that Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s poll loss “stokes fear over Islamists”, while Qatar-based Al Jazeera believes that the “polarising campaign has given Indonesia’s conservative Muslim groups a national stage.”
It’s hard to argue against the factual merits of these assessments regarding Anies Baswedan’s victory in the Jakarta governor race, but Indonesia Vice President Jusuf Kalla, popularly known as JK, begs to differ.
After his meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday evening, JK said he told his counterpart that the foreign media’s depiction of the Jakarta gubernatorial election paints the city, and the country, in an inaccurate light.
“When I met with Vice President Mike Pence, I told him, it’s not fair that the foreign media are saying that the victor (Anies Baswedan) won because he had support from Islamic organizations and that therefore made it look like a win for hardline Islam,” JK said, as quoted by Republika.
JK added that democracy is alive and well in Indonesia, and that Pence told him the US would give their assistance in preserving tolerance in Indonesia.
Do JK’s claims hold up?
Well, sure, if by being democratic means that hardline Islamists were allowed to continually preach hate and discrimination against religious and racial minorities like Ahok, convincing their masses not to vote for a non-Muslim because of a highly contentious interpretation of a Quranic verse.
JK’s claims hold up if we consider it perfectly acceptable that Anies’ political patron, Prabowo Subianto, publicly thanked Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, who literally called for Ahok’s head in his rallies, for “preserving justice” by aiding Anies’ victory. He also even thanked the organizers of a “picnic” for their attempt to bring thousands of outsiders into Jakarta on Election Day to “monitor” polling stations, which is normative speak for intimidating voters to pick a certain candidate.
If all of these things don’t represent a win for hardline Islamists in Indonesia, we don’t know what does.