Jakarta. The chairman of Indonesia's biggest muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama said on Tuesday (18/04) that voters in the Jakarta gubernatorial election should forget about the governor candidates' ethnic background when deciding who to vote.
"Ahok is not Chinese, Anies is not an Arab. No, they're Indonesians," NU Chairman Said Aqil Siradj said.
Rising political tension ahead of Wednesday's election runoff is par for the course and should be seen as a sign that Indonesians are beginning to believe in the country's political processes, he added.
"The Jakarta election is a political process, not a war. This is a test of Jakarta residents' political maturity," Aqil said.
Both candidates signed a declaration of peace on Monday, two days before Jakartans go to the ballot box, but many fear racial discrimination and religious labeling — which have colored the election campaign — will continue until after the election.
Over the past six months, Ahok – a Christian of Chinese descent – has been subject to racial discrimination and condemnation from hardline Muslim groups, who accuse him of blasphemy for criticizing politicians who quote the Koran for political gain.
Even his running mate, current Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, a Javanese Muslim, was kicked out of a mosque in Tebet, South Jakarta, on Friday (14/04) by Muslims who object to his long-running partnership with Ahok.
In contrast, their rivals Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno have largely escaped criticisms by the religious right during the election campaign.
Airlangga Pribadi Kusman, a lecturer in politics from Surabaya’s Airlangga University, said, "We should take note of political crises that have been happening in other countries. Spreading hate by exploiting issues of religion, race and class has already destroyed many communities in the world."
Airlangga said identity politics has fueled political crises not only in conflict areas like Iraq and Syria, but also in supposedly democratic countries like the United States and other countries in Europe.
"People need to make peace with their cultural identity. They shouldn't let themselves be exploited by politics, which is full of hate and madness," he added.