President Joko Widodo is under fire for promoting a local dish, which happens to be off-limits to the Muslim majority population of the country.
In a recorded statement published on the Trade Ministry’s official YouTube channel, Jokowi urged citizens of the country to stay put and observe the government’s mudik Eid homecoming ban (in effect from May 6 to 17). The president then said that if people crave their hometowns’ traditional dishes during the Lebaran Eid holiday, they can always order them online.
“Those who miss Yogya’s gudeg (jackfruit stew), Palembang’s bandeng (milkfish), Bandung’s siomay (steamed fish dumplings), Palembang’s pempek (savory fishcake), Kalimantan’s bipang ambawang (roast pork), and others can order their favorite food and have them delivered to their homes,” Jokowi said.
Many Muslims were outraged by Jokowi’s statement, as they see that it was made in the context of an Islamic holiday.
“It’s better that Jokowi’s speechwriters apologize for their mistake in promoting Lebaran dishes,” Gerindra party politician and prominent government critic Fadli Zon tweeted, representing the ire of Muslims offended by the speech.
Others defended Jokowi in the name of religious tolerance.
It’s hard not to see Jokowi’s statement as a blunder, however, given the mixed messages that came from the government as it attempted to contain the controversy. Trade Minister Muhammad Lutfi, for one, apologized for Jokowi’s statement but urged people to interpret it with a wider context, while Presidential Spokesman Fadjroel Rachman said Jokowi actually meant to promote a similar-sounding Kalimantan rice dish named bipang.
The original video is no longer listed on the Trade Ministry’s YouTube channel as of this article’s publication time.
Yet if there is any winner from this controversy, it’s the bipang ambawang sellers, who are reporting massive windfalls off of Jokowi’s inadvertent advertisement for the dish.