Jakarta. Jakarta Acting Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said that he supported the removal of religion status from Indonesia's national identity card, or KTP, after a member of Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) presidential candidate Joko Widodo's campaign team said that Joko would seek to remove the category if elected — a statement that the campaign quickly rescinded.
"Why do we need a religion status on the identification card?" Basuki — popularly known as Ahok — asked, as quoted by Indonesian news portal Vivanews.com. "Why would I need to know your religion? Since I was a lawmaker [in the House of Representatives], I have said that I did not want to have religion status on the ID card and we have a presidential candidate who agrees."
As a member of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), Basuki, a Christian of Chinese descent, endorsed his party's presidential candidate, former general Prabowo Subianto. But Joko and Basuki are known to have a close working relationship in their partnership as governor and deputy governor of the capital.
"Our country is not a country of religion, I do not have a religion, but I have a God, it was the state that made me admit a religion," Basuki told Vivanews.com. "Religious ritual in Indonesia should depend on the individual instead of coercion of other parties, including the state."
Indonesia formally recognizes only six religious designations: Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, Confucian, Hindu and Muslim.
Members of other religious groups, including adherents to Indonesia's longstanding animist religious traditions, must identify themselves as members of one of the six official groups.
Basuki said that Pancasila, Indonesia's state ideology, did not emphasize a need to favor dominant religions over minority groups.
Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University professor Musdah Mulia, campaign member for Joko's candidacy, said on Wednesday that Joko would remove the designation if he were elected president. The campaign then said on the following day that it denied such a plan, while reaffirming a commitment to uphold pluralism.
Joko is running for the presidency against former army general Prabowo. Indonesians go to the polls on July 9 to vote for a new president to replace Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose second five-year term ends in October.