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ICC Note

Indonesia, a majority-Muslim nation, struggles as the moderate Muslim, Joko Widodo rises to power. At the tail end of the most recent election their former, Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was accused and convicted of violating a blasphemy law and sentenced to two years in prison, putting Widodo in office by default. Widodo wants to move away from secularism, which will test the stability of the Indonesian government, most likely putting Christians in harm’s way.

2017-06-02 Indonesia (The Washington Post) – A SURGE of hard-line Islamist sentiment has shaken Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation and a long-standing model of religious moderation and tolerance. Whether the country’s political leadership is able to steer a genuinely pluralist course through local and presidential elections over the next two years poses a critical test of whether the secular government in Jakarta will remain a bulwark against Islamic radicalism.

Home to roughly 209 million Muslims, about 13 percent of the world’s total, plus influential Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities, the Southeast Asian country has staked a plausible claim to its national motto: “Unity in diversity.” That hard-won achievement is now at risk, as is the stability of the world’s fourth-most-populous nation.

A particularly worrying episode was the recent conviction on blasphemy charges of Jakarta’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — a Christian and Indonesia’s most prominent ethnic Chinese politician of the past 20 years. His offense, as he campaigned last fall to retain his post, was to warn Muslim voters not to be fooled by Islamist voices who were citing a Koranic verse suggesting a prohibition against voting for Christian or other non-Muslim candidates.

Mr. Purnama, a no-nonsense anti-corruption campaigner, was a clear electoral front-runner until then, but his remark triggered a backlash, including violent demonstrations led by extremist Islamist groups demanding he be prosecuted. Concerningly, a number of establishment politicians sought to appease the extremists. In a runoff election, Mr. Purnama was ousted in April as governor of Jakarta, a city of 10 million.

That opened the door to Mr. Purnama’s conviction last month and his sentence to two years in prison, which is a travesty. A U.N. group of experts has appealed to Indonesian authorities to release Mr. Purnama, but that looks unlikely.

Now, some Islamist hard-liners, emboldened by their victory, are starting a push to impose sharia law nationwide, hoping for further gains in dozens of local and provincial elections next year, and even plotting strategy to capture the presidency in 2019.

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