The Jakarta Post
After riding a wave of growing religious conservatism to win the Jakarta gubernatorial election, presumptive governor-elect Anies Baswedan and his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, recently announced a series of policies in favor of Muslims in the city.
However, experts say that the possibility of Jakarta implementing sharia law remains slim.
During the celebration of Isra’ Mi’raj at At-Tin Mosque in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII), East Jakarta, on Monday, Anies told the congregation that he would enable Muslims to use the National Monument (Monas) park in Central Jakarta for tabligh akbar (mass prayers), something that was prohibited by current Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, whose electability took a severe beating following blasphemy charges made against him.
Ahok said earlier that based on a presidential decree, Monas should be sterile as it was classified as a “first ring” area.
However, Anies said the government should have allowed the park to be used for religious purposes.
“The first principle of Pancasila states the absoluteness of God. Therefore, religious events should be supported by the administration,” Anies said.
(Read also: Anies rides Islamist wave)
Furthermore, Anies said he would allow residents to hold takbiran (recital of the greatness of God) in public and open spaces during Idul Fitri, while Ahok suggested residents hold such events in mosques only.
He also said that he would enable residents to slaughter animals in schools during the celebration of Idul Adha (the Islamic day of sacrifice), something that was banned by Ahok on the back of sanitation and health concerns.
Last week, Anies reiterated his campaign promise to close the Alexis hotel in North Jakarta, known for its on-site strip club and commercial sex services.
After cracking down on entertainment venues that are deemed to contravene religious values, Sandiaga said that he would like to attract foreign Muslim tourists to the city by promoting religious tours with sharia-based entertainment in Jakarta.
Sandiaga explained that he wanted to hold a festival that would be adopted from Dubai’s night life.
In the festival, he added, there would be mass prayers to the Prophet Muhammad, Islamic learning forums, and ta’aruf — an Islamic process of couples getting to know each other.
Despite showing partiality to a particular religion, activists and experts say that Jakartans should not be worried that the city will be turned into a form of Aceh, the only province in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country that imposes sharia law.
Human rights watchdog Setara Institute deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos said that Anies and Sandiaga’s programs would be unlikely to affect the city’s plurality.
“We need to see to what extent Anies and Sandiaga draft policies that accommodate Islamic hardliners, as well as making connections with them,” said Bonar.
Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) researcher Arya Fernandes echoed Bonar, saying the promises were only their strategies to win over Muslim voters.
“[But] in the future, Anies and Sandiaga will probably go for the middle and accommodate all [groups] and no longer take sides with one particular group,” said Arya.