Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s choice of a conservative Muslim cleric as his running mate took many by surprise, but it underscored his determination to counter accusations of him being anti-Islam in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
By picking influential Islamic scholar Ma’ruf Amin, Widodo, also known as Jokowi, blunted the campaign against him, boosting his chances of being re-elected.
Jokowi and the 75-year-old Ma’ruf will face former special forces commander Prabowo Subianto of Gerindra party and his running mate, entrepreneur Sandiaga Uno, in the April 2019 presidential election.
Ma’ruf is one of Indonesia’s most influential and highly-recognisable Muslim clerics today.
He is the spiritual leader of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which claims to have 80 million followers and is the largest Muslim organisation in Indonesia and in the world.
NU is known as Indonesia’s face of moderate Islam.
Ma’ruf also heads the influential Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), a semi-official government body which issues fatwas for the Muslim community.
To understand Jokowi’s choice of Ma’ruf as running mate, one only needs to tune in to cyberspace to see the relentless onslaught against the president’s religiosity.
Videos accusing Jokowi of being anti-Muslim or a closet Christian are widely circulated on Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook.
While Jokowi may have staved off the anti-Islam narrative for now, he still faces a battle on the economic front. It is expected that Jokowi’s rivals are going to attack him on economic issues.
Source: Channel News Asia
Photo courtesy of Reuters