TGB: I`ve Supported Jokowi for a Long Time

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  • TGB (second from the left) at the 9th PPI Conference.

    TGB (second from the left) at the 9th PPI Conference.

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Among the many who support President Joko Widodo to run again in the 2019 presidential elections, one stands out for provoking controversy. He is Muhammad Zainul Majdi, Governor of West Nusa Tenggara (NTB).

    Nicknamed Tuan Guru Bajang, meaning a young religious leader in the Sasak language, he has been known as a supporter of Prabowo Subianto. As head of the Prabowo-Hatta Rajasa winning team in the 2014 presidential election in the province, Zainul led the pair to a landslide victory of 72.5 percent of the vote in his province. At the end of his ten-year tenure as governor, Zainul is said to be one of Prabowo's possible candidates for vice president.

    All bets were off when Zainul, 46, declared his support for Jokowi two weeks ago. He believed that the president should be given as much time as possible to complete the infrastructure development in eastern Indonesia, which requires his special attention. "Two terms are necessary for the continuity of development," he said in an interview at Tempo's office on Thursday last week.

    The appeal made Zainul the target of jokes on social media. This educator at Darunnahdlatain Islamic boarding school, Pancor, Lombok, was taken aback by the massive negative reaction leveled at him. As a member of the Democrat Party's assembly, he may also be subject to sanctions from his party, which has yet to determine their position in the presidential election.

    Zainul, who holds a doctorate inQur'anicexegesis and sciences from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, regretted that many people focused more on the issue of support rather than the main call, which was to ask all parties to stop quotingQur'anicverses in the presidential and regional head election war. "If it continues, Indonesia may be divided," said the grandson of a national hero from Lombok, Tuan Guru Kiai Haji Zainuddin Abdul Madjid.

    What made you switch from Prabowo Subianto to Joko Widodo? 

    I don't think my statements reflect that. In fact, personally, right from the beginning I've always been supportive (of the president). When communicating with Pak Jokowi, I accommodate his policies that have positive impacts on the region. If something is missing, I give input. As part of the government, I am a representative of the central government in the region. So, I'm always supportive of presidents, during both Pak Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's and Pak Jokowi's terms. I have supported him long before that, but only he knew that.

    Since when? 

    My personal commitment to the president started around 2016, after I saw that for two years he consistently executed his plans, diligently carried out development, including in West Nusa Tenggara. It's just that I didn't state it publicly until yesterday (July 3).

    Why just before the presidential election? 

    Because momentum is important. The support statement did not stand alone. The first point of my statement was not to use (Qur'anic) war verses for political contests or anything else in Indonesia. We're not at war, right? Following the Jakarta gubernatorial elections in 2017, there have been efforts to put people under pro-ummah (Islamic community) and anti-ummah categories. If this is carried forward to the 2019 presidential election, Indonesia will definitely split up. In every invitation to speak, in mosques, seminars, and lectures, I state that the diversity of Indonesia is sunnatullah (a given condition). No one should be discredited based on race and ethnicity because it is a given. All debates must be within the framework of fastabiqul khairat, racing to seek goodness. That is the common thread. I have stated this consistently for over a year now.

    In reality, the public perceives you as a supporter of Prabowo. 

    I describe the present condition as tsaqofah memeyah (a turn of phrase of Islamic tsaqofah, or a life perspective based on Islamic teachings), as a meme culture. When you want to find out about someone, what you look for is his or her meme. So very associative. We often get stuck on shallow things. Certain community components, for example, include my photos in their memes. Maybe that's what shapes the perception that I'm here, not there.

    Who is 'here'? 

    Well, here means, the one putting up the memes.

    Did you communicate with Jokowi before declaring your support? 

    I did not. And neither did I afterward. I last met Pak Jokowi in mid-May.

    How close are you to Jokowi? 

    We have a normal relationship. We meet only when he's on working visits in NTB and when I was summoned two or three times. We discussed NTB. We've never communicated over the phone.

    Has any messenger of Jokowi's visited you? 


    Do you follow the surveys that place you as a vice presidential candidate? 

    I have read about it. Well, I'll just be grateful.

    Jokowi is considered distant with Islamic voters. Do you agree? 

    That is a political fact. There is an impression that Pak Jokowi is somewhat distant from the Islamic groups, so he needs a representation of Islamic leaders to accompany him. In my opinion, he has done many things that touch the economic interests of the people, such as establishing the Sharia Finance Committee, certifying the assets of mosques and Islamic boarding schools, and redistributing assets whose biggest beneficiaries are the people. However, on the other hand, there are interactions that may appear harsh, such as with one or two religious figures that were entangled with the law. On social media, this has been described as being anti-Islam. 

    Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine