Islamic hardliners protesting against Jakarta's Christian former governor Ahok, 2016 (World Watch Monitor)
Islamic hardliners protesting against Jakarta’s Christian former governor Ahok, 2016 (World Watch Monitor)

Hardline Islamic leaders have called on Indonesians to vote only for Muslim candidates at the regional and presidential elections over the next two years, reports UCA News.

Indonesia needs leaders “who can defend Islam and make sure Islamic teachings are applied… We don’t want people like Ahok [the Christian former governor of Jakarta] to lead,” Ahmad Sobri Lubis, Chairman of the Islamic Defenders Front, said. He was speaking at a 40,000-strong gathering on 2 December, commemorating the rally held a year ago after Ahok was accused of blasphemy.

The protests against Ahok continued for months. In February, tens of thousands of Muslims took to the streets of Jakarta to persuade Indonesians not to re-elect him as governor. The protestors held posters with messages such as “I’d prefer if my leader is a Muslim” and “It is forbidden to pick an infidel leader”.

Ahok was on trial at the time, but lost his re-election campaign by a small margin. The accusations against him held and he was jailed for two years in May.

But not all participants of Saturday’s rally agreed with the call to elect only Muslim leaders. “We need leaders who can advance Indonesia, no matter what religion he belongs to,” said Mafud, 21.