Indonesians have a message for incoming Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama ("Ahok") and for Islamic Defenders Front extremists who oppose his ascendancy: this is our democracy.
Indonesians began speaking out after nearly 1,000 white-uniformed FPI members marched to Jakarta City Hall on September 24th, and on Friday (October 3rd) rioted outside the same venue, injuring ten police officers.
They oppose Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian, succeeding President-Elect Joko Widodo as Jakarta governor, even though he was elected as deputy governor in September 2012.
"This is our democracy. We are part of this process," Jakarta cleric Ahmad Afrizal told Khabar Southeast Asia, suggesting FPI members return home. "We should give our best support to Ahok so he can do a good job for Jakarta and to improve our welfare as citizens and not to create segregation over ethnic conflict."
At the September 24th and October 3rd demonstrations, FPI protesters carried banners scrawled with "Ahok, shut your mouth "or "Muslims in Jakarta don't need Ahok".
"Most people in Jakarta are Muslims, and his leadership is unlawful according to Islamic law," said FPI supporter Safiq Sudharmanto.
Ahmad said that as Indonesian citizens, Jakarta residents must accept Ahok.
"As Muslims we are unhappy to see this FPI protest ongoing," Ahmad continued. "FPI is also using Islam for reasons for protest and this is wrong. Our religion does not teach us to do violent action."
Jakarta police spokesman Rikwanto said the force had anticipated the demonstrations, and prohibited protestors from carrying sharp weapons, dangerous tools or explosive materials.
The FPI made two demands – that the Home Affairs Ministry not inaugurate Ahok and that City Council allow a referendum to elect Jakarta's next governor after Jokowi steps down on October 20th.
But constitutional expert Bayu Dwi Anggono said there is nothing that hinders Ahok from becoming governor of Jakarta.
"According to the law No 12, 2008, passage 26 clearly states that the deputy governor will become governor when the governor is unable to remain because of death, an accepted resignation by the head of parliament, or dismissal," Bayu told Khabar. "So there is no reason that Ahok should not be governor until the next election."
"We are all Indonesians"
Ahok said he was not surprised by the FPI protest, but vowed that he would handle his duties and not be intimidated by intolerance.
"I have been through these ethnic and religious attacks since I was a Belitung district leader," Ahok told Khabar. "Imagine, the population of my constituents was 98% Muslim. But I worked hard. People after a while know my commitment and despite being a Chinese descendant and Christian, I am Indonesian."
Looking forward, Ahok said that citizens "should not fear anyone who has a good effort and good attitude for Indonesia.
"I will do my best, and I will put aside any intimidation posed by people that do not have tolerance. After all, we are all Indonesians regardless of religious and ethnic background," he said.
Jakarta resident Harnang Widodo, 43, said that while FPI is entitled to protest, it is not allowed to be violent.
"They have to respect the final decision made by higher officials such as the Home Ministry," Harnang told Khabar. "In this country, we have laws to respect, and FPI should do the same thing."
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