Why I'm not surprised by Ahok's jail sentence
Jakarta’s Christian governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, was sentenced for 2 years in jail because of blasphemy on Tuesday, May 9. The verdict shocked people. Many cried. But for me, this sentence was not really a surprise.
Before Ahok, Indonesian courts have given jail sentences for blasphemy several times. Humanitarian and writer Arswendo Atmowiloto was jailed for 5 years when he was the Editor-in-Chief for tabloid Monitor in 1990. In 2011, a writer named Antonius Richmond Bawengan was also jailed for 5 years because of his books and brochures. Both their work were deemed blasphemous.
This jail sentence for blasphemy —as ridiculous as it sounds— is not new, fresh, or especially made to overthrow Ahok.
Also, we have to admit that Ahok has weaknesses as a politician. Don’t get me wrong, Ahok is a great governor, he served Jakarta better than anyone has ever did. But when it comes to stabilizing political situations and handling conflicts, he is subpar.
Confident, but a snob
It all started when he resigned from Gerindra and became an independent. This move showed that Ahok has great confidence in himself and he rightfully so. He managed to gather millions of Jakartans' support through Teman Ahok. However, politics is not as easy as 1,2,3.
When the elections came, he knew for sure that he could not fight independently — he doesn’t have the political machinery and resources. So, he decided to become a partisan again and joined his vice governor’s party — PDI Perjuangan.
Ahok's confidence actually appeared as snobbery, and snobbery in politics makes you an enemy, especially for someone as young as Ahok. He is only 50 years old, and had just built his political career for 10 years. And Gerindra—led by a suspected human rights offender Prabowo Subianto— of course felt betrayed. He was willing to do everything to take Ahok down.
From this point on, every move was watched carefully by the enemies.
The blasphemy controversy began in September last year, when Ahok —who is a Christian— said that Koranic verses were often used to trick people into voting against him.
I don’t want to argue whether his words are blasphemy or not, but I don’t think it is wise for a high-profile, public servant, or public figure to say something that he is not actually suitable to talk about.
He is a Christian and he should have known better to not quote a Koranic verse in such a public event. He should have known better that what he says about Koranic verses will be questioned by Muslims because he is not a Muslim himself. He should stick to talking about what he knows, and understands, and what suits him as a governor.
Especially because – and he must've known this – his enemy will always try to look for any stain they could use to bring him down.
His careless words continued in court. I understand that Ahok and his lawyers are not pleading or feeling guilty, so they continue to fight aggresively. However, they should have tried to show some regret in front of the judges and people – especially the ones who felt offended.
Instead, they continued to fight against the wall. And this is why the judge said that the incriminating point for him was: “the defendant didn't feel guilt, the defendant's act has caused anxiety and hurt Muslims”.
Despite the high pressure this case got from the start, or the greater political agenda behind this sentence, Ahok should have done something differently in order to escape the jail sentences. Maybe he could've chosen his words more properly or held back from making unnecessary comments about everything.
I get that it is his style, but if he wants to be a long-lasting politician, he needs to be wiser. —Rappler.com
Sakinah Ummu Haniy is a Multimedia Reporter for Rappler Indonesia. She got her bachelor degree in Political Science from University of Indonesia, before she went to Newcastle University and get a Master of Arts in Media and Journalism. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @hhaanniiyy.
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