Rhoma faces probe over Ahok ‘slurs’
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Dangdut singer and Muslim preacher Rhoma Irama faces questioning on allegations that he made slurs against the religious beliefs of vice gubernatorial candidate Basuki Tjahaja “Ahok” Purnama at a Jakarta mosque.
Rhoma, who has been stumping for Ahok’s opponents, incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo and Nachrowi Ramli, would be questioned on Friday morning, Ramdansyah, the chairman of the Jakarta branch of the Election Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu Jakarta), said on Thursday.
“We have decided to summon Rhoma Irama over the case in order to obtain a full understanding,” Ramdansyah told reporters.
Ramdansyah made his comments after committee members met on Thursday with representatives of the Jakarta Police and Jakarta Prosecutor’s Office to discuss the case.
Rhoma delivered an allegedly derogatory and politically charged sermon on Sunday evening before tarawih prayers at Al Isra Mosque in Tanjung Duren, West Jakarta, while Fauzi was in attendance.
Panwaslu Jakarta said it had obtained a seven-minute video of the sermon that it declined to show in full to reporters.
In an earlier part of the sermon, Rhoma reportedly called on the congregation to vote for candidates based on their religion.
“It wouldn’t matter much if Rhoma had stopped there. But he went on to denigrate other religions,” Ramdansyah said.
Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, has been seen as an Achilles’ heel for Jokowi following a barrage of racial and religious slurs made against him in the run up to the runoff election on Sept. 20.
Rhoma, seen as a divisive figure for his antics as an artist and preacher, said he was ready to be questioned.
“Based on my faith, I did nothing wrong. A mosque is not only a place to pray, but also to discuss social matters,” Rhoma said Wednesday.
Fauzi’s campaign team denied responsibility for Rhoma’s statements, saying they did not initiate the event and that the singer was not a member of Fauzi’s campaign team although he had participated in rallies before the first round of voting on July 11.
The man running above Ahok on the ticket, Surakarta Mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, declined to comment, saying only that he admired Rhoma as an artist.
“Other than rock, I like to listen to dangdut songs by Rhoma Irama,” Jokowi said as reported by Antara news agency.
One of Joko’s favorite song from Rhoma repertoire was “135 Juta” (135 million), he said.
The song, released in the late 1970s when the population of Indonesia was around the same number, told of how the nation was made up of various ethnicities.
“We have Sundanese, Javanese, Acehnese, Padangnese, Batak […] let’s not offend one another/ We are one nation,” the song said.
“The lyrics have a very good meaning for Indonesia,” Jokowi said.
It remains unclear if Rhoma will face criminal charges or sanctions under the Election Law.
The commission has previously received several reports of negative campaigning ahead of the runoff, involving the four so-called SARA topics — suku (ethnicity), agama (religion), ras (race) and antargolongan (intergroup relations) — which were taboo during the New Order.
The poll supervisor has also officially asked the local Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB Jakarta) and local religious leaders to keep the election free of racial, ethnic and religious slurs.