Young people join protests against the former Christian Jakarta governor Ahok who was convicted of blasphemy in May last year. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Many young people joined the 2017 protests against former Jakarta governor Ahok, who was later jailed for blasphemy against Islam. During the trial, Ahok, a Christian and ethnic Chinese, said he had been the target of racist and religious attacks since he was elected to public office in 2005. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission is to propose guidelines to avoid sectarian clashes in the run-up to next year’s national elections, reports Catholic news site UCAN.

Ahead of recent regional elections, some hardline Islamic leaders called on Indonesians to vote only for Muslim candidates.

Sectarianism also played a prominent role in the elections for Jakarta’s governorship in 2017, when the incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (better known as “Ahok”), a Christian and ethnic Chinese, was accused of committing blasphemy against Islam. He lost the election and is now in jail.

While on trial Ahok testified that he had been the target of racist and religious attacks since he was elected to public office in 2005.

Meanwhile, UCAN noted that current president Joko Widodo is often accused of being anti-Islam and pro-Chinese.

“The commission is determined to set out norms to eliminate race and ethnic discrimination during the presidential election in 2019, and other polls, because it is important with regards to national unity,” said the commission’s Choiril Anam.

The new code of conduct is reportedly being developed with input from lawyers, academics, experts and religious organisations and will become available in the next few weeks.

Muhammad Ali Safaat, a lecturer at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, said: “Although there is already a law to prevent discrimination, this code of conduct will guide people and make them realise that sectarian campaigns have no place in Indonesian democracy.”