JAKARTA, Indonesia – Religion and ethnicity play big roles in the Indonesian elections.
How will the next president unite a nation divided by faith and race?
Ayee Macaraig files this video blog.
This is the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia located in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia. Indonesians do their Friday prayers here and pilgrimage as Muslims observe the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Indonesia takes pride in its unique blend of moderate Islam and democracy. It also hails the diversity of the nation, having various religions and hundreds of ethnic groups and languages. But faith and ethnicity have been a hot topic in Indonesia’s presidential election set on July 9.
Frontrunner Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo or Jokowi’s popularity suffers from a smear campaign labeling him a closet ethnic Chinese Christian. Pollsters say this helped narrow his lead over former special forces commander Prabowo Subianto in a country where almost 9 out of 10 citizens are Muslim.
To counter the spread of a tabloid carrying the rumor, Jokowi’s camp released its own tabloid showing him performing the Haj pilgrimage in Mecca. Jokowi also promotes a “mental revolution” to fight religious intolerance and ethnic differences through education.
His rival, Prabowo, stirs controversy for securing the support of strict, conservative Islamic parties… and for his alleged involvement in anti-Chinese violence during the fall of Suharto in 1998. While Prabowo is also hit by black propaganda highlighting human rights abuses the issue does not stick as much as the rumors on Jokowi’s religion. Will Indonesia see a more tolerant president in the next 5 years? The election will help determine how Indonesia lives up to its motto: unity in diversity. Ayee Macaraig, Rappler, Jakarta, Indonesia.