Most Indonesian Muslims do not want non-Muslims in leadership positions in government, which points to rising political intolerance in the country, a survey showed on Monday (24/09). (Reuters Photo/Darren Whiteside)

Most Indonesian Muslims Opposed to Non-Muslims in Political Leadership: Survey


SEPTEMBER 24, 2018

Jakarta. Most Indonesian Muslims do not want non-Muslims in leadership positions in government, which points to rising political intolerance in the country, a survey showed on Monday (24/09).

The survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) focused on public perception on democracy, corruption and intolerance in the country. The LSI interviewed 1,520 respondents who were eligible to vote at the time of survey, and found that there was an increase in political intolerance among Indonesian Muslims between 2016 and 2018.

The LSI measured political intolerance by evaluating Muslim respondents' support for non-Muslim candidates running for office, including president, vice president, governors and mayors.

In 2016 for example, 48 percent of respondents said they opposed having a non-Muslim president. By 2018, this proportion increased to 59 percent. The survey had a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points and a 95 percent level of confidence.

According to LSI senior researcher Burhanuddin Muhtadi, political intolerance has consolidated after the divisive campaign during the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election.

"Some academics claim that the demonstrations against Ahok were the peak of radicalism [in the country], but empirical data shows something different… What we have found is that those events still have an impact even today," Burhanuddin said, referring to former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian, was convicted on a charge of blasphemy and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in May last year.

A movement emerged from the Islamic opposition to Ahok in late 2016, after a doctored version of the former governor's speech, in which he made a reference to a Koranic verse about voting for non-Muslims, went viral and gave way to mass demonstrations against him, which eventually resulted in the blasphemy charge.

Burnahuddin said the demonstrations, including the so-called "212" rally in Central Jakarta in December 2016, opened the door for intolerance in Indonesia.

The LSI also measured intolerance from religious and cultural perspectives, and found that while most Muslims did not mind other religious events in their neighborhoods, 52 percent were opposed to having non-Muslims build places of worship in their areas.

The institute said a declining trend in religious and cultural intolerance, which had been observed since 2010, ended last year.

Tyranny of the Majority

The LSI survey also showed a high number of instances of intolerance among majority groups in any given community, whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim.

In cases where Muslims perceive themselves as the majority, they scored 54.2 on a scale of 0-100, where a higher score indicates more intolerance. In contrast, when Muslims feel they are not part of the majority, the score drops to 41.2. The LSI observed the same trend among non-Muslims, who scored 19.2 when they feel a part of the majority, but only 3.8 when not.

Burnahuddin said this indicates the problem of majority privilege.

"There is an issue in which Muslims are more intolerant, yes, but one of the drivers is the sense of being part of the majority means you must be treated better," he said.

Despite rising intolerance across the archipelago, Wahid Foundation executive director Yenny Wahid said Indonesia is not the only country where this trend can be observed.

"This trend is not exclusive to Indonesia, it's happening across the world. It shows the tyranny of the majority," Yenny said.

She emphasized the importance of remembering what unites Indonesians, and that intolerance should be resolved through collaboration, especially with next year's presidential and legislative elections just around the corner.

Yenny said the two presidential candidates' election campaigns will once again raise the issue of religion.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto, along with their respective running mates, Ma'ruf Amin and Sandiaga Uno, kicked off their campaigns in Jakarta on Sunday by signing a peace pledge, which seeks to curb spread of fake news and hate speech during the campaigning period.

Yenny pointed out that Indonesians are not united because of one ethnicity, religion or language, like in some countries.

"We are united by the spirit of a nation, of wanting to be independent, free from colonizers; a country that brings justice and prosperity to its people. This is what unites us, and if it starts to fade away, what will become of us? For me, this is the problem we face today," Yenny said.