A tense election threatens Indonesia’s religious tolerance

How would God vote?

THE mood in Jakarta was jittery in the days leading up to its gubernatorial election on April 19th. Around 64,000 police, soldiers and other security personnel were deployed to keep the peace. At least one policeman guarded every one of the 13,000-odd polling stations.

Islamist agitators implied the incumbent governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, was planning to steal the election, and threatened to flood the city with supporters to safeguard the vote. They accused Ahok, who is both Christian and of Chinese ancestry, of “Christianising” Jakarta because, to some paranoid minds, a mosque built by the city government resembles a cross. A Facebook user claimed the gang rape and murder of Ahok’s supporters would not be sinful.

Anxious ethnic-Chinese, in turn, shared posts warning that the election of Ahok’s rival, Anies Baswedan, would lead to the forcible imposition of Islamic law. “People are saying, ‘Behave yourself, or we’ll make another May 1998,’” said one Chinese Christian Jakartan—referring to the month when deadly pogroms against Chinese broke out across the city.

The head of Nahdlatul...

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