West Java governor hopeful Ridwan Kamil, a Muslim, says he’s already being falsely attacked on religious grounds

West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil. Photo: Instagram / ridwankamil
West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil. Photo: Instagram / ridwankamil

For many, the main lesson from the results of last week’s Jakarta governor election is that religious attacks against a candidate can be extremely successful. It’s a strategy that may have already been implemented leading up to the 2018 West Java governor race, which is widely considered the next biggest regional election in Indonesia after Jakarta in terms of scale and importance to Indonesia’s overall political landscape.

Bandung’s Mayor Ridwan Kamil, who is widely tipped to run for West Java governor in 2018, said he has already been the target of numerous false attacks based on religious issues, despite his candidacy not yet being official and the fact that he’s a Muslim.

During a press conference on Sunday, Kamil said that one notably religious black campaign against him, which has gone viral on social media, is the accusation that he has issued construction permits for 300 places of worship for non-Islamic religions during his 4-year tenure as Bandung mayor (which he went on record for in an interview with Islamic publication Republika earlier this year).

“During my term, I have only issued permits for 10 places of worship – 5 for mosques, 3 for churches, and 2 for temples,” he said, as quoted by Tempo.

Kamil added that he now faces numerous religious-based attacks aimed at hurting his candidacy for governor, which has compelled him to speak out against the lies.

It remains to be seen if religious attacks can hurt Kamil’s chances the same way they seemingly destroyed the reelection hopes of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who, as a Christian Chinese, is a double minority.

Despite Ridwan Kamil being a Muslim, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the West Javanese – 97% of whom are Muslim – won’t vote for him, or other candidates for that matter, should they feel that they pose a threat to their beliefs.

In addition, Islamic hardliners have protested the closure of non-Islamic places of worship and religious services in West Java on numerous occasions in the past, including in Kamil’s Bandung as well.

In Bandung, Ridwan Kamil is generally seen as a well-loved and progressive leader despite a couple of perceived antiLGBT gaffes.

While no one, including Kamil, has made their West Java gubernatorial candidacy official, the Bandung mayor has already emerged as an early favorite to win the election thanks to his work in the province’s capital.

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