K.H. Salahuddin Wahid, known as Gus Sholah, is the leader of the Tebu Ireng Islamic boarding school in Jombang, East Java. (Antara Photo/Syaiful Arif)

Election Protests Have Nothing to Do With Defending Islam: Muslim Leader

MAY 22, 2019

Jakarta. Protests in Jakarta against the result of last month's presidential election, which turned violent late on Tuesday, does not represent a defense of Islam, the religion followed by most Indonesians, a senior Islamic leader said.

K.H. Salahuddin Wahid, known as Gus Sholah, the leader of the Tebu Ireng pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Jombang, East Java, said demonstrations in front of the offices of the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) was not a move to "defend Islam."

"It has nothing to do with defending Islam," Gus Sholah, the brother of late former president of Indonesia and legendary Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) leader Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, said in a statement distributed to the media on Wednesday.

The capital city is on alert as presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, who is backed by a number of Muslim organizations and parties, has rejected the official election result announced by the General Elections Commission (KPU) on Tuesday, which saw a re-election win for his rival Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

Since mid-day on Tuesday, Prabowo's supporters have been gathering in Central Jakarta to rally against the election result.

On Wednesday morning, protesters turned violent in clashes with security officers near the famous Tanah Abang textile market. 

Gus Sholah said violence committed in the name of Islam hurts the religion and hurts democracy in Indonesia, the country with the biggest Muslim population in the world.

He said he did not want to speculate who the intellectual actors behind the violent ending of Tuesday's protests were.

"We don't know who moved people for the demonstrations, but we don't want to see more casualties," he said.

Gus Sholah is the son of Wahid Hasyim, another legendary leader of NU, the biggest Islamic organization in Indonesia. Ironically, most of the violent clashes in Central Jakarta on Tuesday night happened on a main road bearing the grand old man's name. 

Gus Sholah calls on Muslim leaders, scholars and intellectuals to contribute in mediating the election dispute. NU is the main backer of vice presidential candidate K.H. Ma'ruf Amin, who bears the title of supreme leader at the organization.

He also calls on the government and law enforcers to remain professional in their handling of protesters.