The Jakarta Post
Eighteen years ago, Amien Rais was a key figure in the reform movement whose political activism helped bring down the authoritarian Soeharto regime, a feat that brought him to national prominence.
Today, however, the senior National Mandate Party (PAN) politician has become a fringe figure in national politics and recently he made a baffling move by launching a bitter, racially charged attack against Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who is currently seeking reelection and has topped many public opinion polls in recent months.
Last month, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) rebuked Amien for railing against Ahok in a sermon delivered at a mosque in North Jakarta.
Amien reportedly told the congregants to vote for a gubernatorial candidate “who does not have a penchant for evictions, who does not serve the interests of capitalists”.
Undeterred by the MUI’s warning, on Sunday Amien upped the ante by calling him the dajjal (Antichrist).
“The sky’s the limit for Ahok’s arrogance. He is very arrogant. But in history, no arrogant people have ever won. Let’s join forces to fight him. Do not allow this dajjal to win [the election],” Amien said as quoted by kompas.com.
Amien delivered his speech at a gathering of community unit (RW) and neighborhood unit (RT) heads in the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Koja, North Jakarta, on Sunday.
During his speech, Amien told attendees to vote for any candidate but Ahok, as the incumbent was well-known as a protector of the rich.
“God willing we can win. What matters the most is that any figure would be better than that one [Ahok],” he told the crowd.
Former Jakarta deputy governor Prijanto also spoke at the gathering, denouncing Ahok as a psychopath.
“Do you know any psychopaths? I do, Ahok fits the description,” Prijanto said in his speech, drawing a raucous response from the crowd.
Responding to Amien’s antics, Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Muslim organization, where Amien once served as chairman, said he had violated the organization’s commitment to abide by the country’s rules and regulations.
“Members of Muhammadiyah understand and follow both the regulations of the organization and the prevailing laws of the country,” secretary-general of Muhammadiyah Abdul Mukti told The Jakarta Post.
Mukti said members of the public could file a complaint with the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) about the possible violation of political campaign rules.
Meanwhile, the head of Ahok’s campaign team, Nusron Wahid, said Amien needed to calm down.
“I pity him. He is quite old yet still very emotional. I pray to God he has a long life and good health. There’s no need for him to show his temper,” Nusron said in a statement.
As the Jakarta gubernatorial election draws near, the political heat generated by the event is believed to have spread into the religious sphere and Amien’s case could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Sectarianism was an issue during the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial election when Ahok ran alongside then Surakarta mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. At the time, dangdut singer-cum-preacher Rhoma Irama called on Muslim voters not to vote for Jokowi, whose mother, he falsely claimed was a Christian.
He made the statement in a sermon delivered at the Al Isra Mosque in West Jakarta. The incident was reported to the Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu).
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