Groups call for no racism, sectarianism in election

The campaign period for the Jakarta gubernatorial race kicked off Friday with a joint declaration
by human rights activists and leading Muslim figures to promote an election that is free from racism and

Ismail Hasani, research director of the Setara Institute rights group, said on Friday that although many surveys showed only a small number of Jakarta residents would take religion into consideration in choosing a governor, smear campaigns and sectarian attacks in public would likely take place that could pose a
serious problem.

Fear of rising sectarianism in the election emerged after a number of hardline groups voiced their opposition to the candidacy of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who is a Christian of Chinese descent.

“We should unite against the use of [racist and sectarian attacks in political campaigns], not because we support one candidate or another, but because exploitation of religious and racial issues will leave a scar on the public that won’t heal even after the election is over,” he told The Jakarta Post during the declaration by the Gerakan Santi Nusantara (Movement of the Archipelago’s Islamic Boarding School Students).

The campaign period is to last from Oct. 28 to Feb. 11, 2017, while voting day is scheduled for Feb. 15, 2017.

A survey released by pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) last month found that sectarian issues were unlikely to sway the opinions of Jakarta’s voters because of the large number who would most likely base their decisions on rational calculations.

However, a rally by thousands of hardline Muslims in the capital demanding that Ahok be sent to jail over his statement regarding how others have used a Quranic verse had created a sense that the negative religious fervor would not calm down. Ahok was accused of defaming the Quran when he criticized people who used the scripture to discourage people from voting for him.

The protesters, many of whom came from outside Jakarta, made derogatory remarks and expressed verbal threats against Ahok.

The hard-line religious groups have also pledged to stage more large protests in Jakarta’s streets if the National Police refused to press ahead with a criminal investigation into the alleged blasphemy.

The police and military had said they would deploy 7,000 officers to pacify the threatened rally.

Robi Sugara, the director of the Muslim Crisis Center, said the groups had failed to see that the Quran should be read to promote peace and not hate and violence.

He added that his organization and Gerakan Santri Nusantara would form a team to promote a peaceful campaign on social media, as he believed that it was the place where people could share their thoughts on the gubernatorial election and could be exposed to smear campaigns.

“We would post various posts that contain humor without undermining any candidate, [so as] to reduce the tension on social media.”

The first day of the campaign period started without fanfare.

Ahok had said he did not have any campaign events scheduled for Friday. His running mate, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, met with residents of Pasar Rebo, East Jakarta, after Friday prayer.

Source : The Jakarta Post

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