Regional Election; Playing the Religion Card in North Sumatra
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Listing six reasons for choosing a leader, an invitation bearing the letterhead of Al-Ihsan Mosque in Jalan Sei Batang Hari, Medan, circulated on some online chat groups a day before the election for the Governor of North Sumatra. Quoting a verse of the Quran, the message argued that it was not allowed to choose a non-Muslim leader. The invitation closed by calling on people to perform the dawn prayer in the congregation before heading to the voting booths together on the day of the election, on Wednesday last week.
Despite not mentioning any candidates by name, the message was clearly designed to get people to not vote for running mates Djarot Saiful Hidayat and Sihar Sitorus. In the election for Governor of North Sumatra, Sihar is the only Christian candidate. Djarot, Edy RahmayadiandMusa Rajekshah, who they were running against, are Muslims.
At the Baitul Muhsinin Mosque in Rantau Prapat, which is about nine kilometers from Al-Ikhsan Mosque, calls to pray the dawn prayer together and to travel en masse to the voting booths (TPS) can be seen on a banner at the gate. The mosque caretakers who put up the banner included the slogan: "From the Mosque to the TPS for a Muslim Community Victory."
Sugiat Santoso, Vice Chair of the Edy-Musa Campaign Team, said that such calls benefited their candidates. "The cohesion of the Muslim community was very solid on the day of the election," saidSugiaton Thursday last week.
A day before the election, many campaigns exploited religious and ethnic sentiments. The most obvious case was the large religious gathering at the Merdeka Field, Medan, last June 23. Entitled "A Prayer for a Dignified North Sumatra," the event was attended by well-known religious figures Abdul Somad Batubara and Tengku Zulkarnain. Gatot Nurmantyo, a former commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI), was there as a guest.
While giving a talk about religion, Somad slipped in a message reminding everyone to perform the dawn prayer in congregation on the day of the election. "After that, have breakfast and go to the voting booths together," said Somad. "Take a close look at their track records, to see if (the candidates) are from political parties which vilify religion."
Umar Syadat Hasibuan, the caretaker of the Daarul Muhsinin Islamic Boarding School in Labuhanbatu, North Sumatra, claimed to be the party who brought Somad to that event. According to him, Somad was invited a month before the event. "Ustad Somad only called on voters to choose a leader who is in line with Islamic teachings," he said.
Nawir Qulubana, a staff member of Somad's management team, was unwilling to explain why that preacher from Asahan, North Sumatra, was at the event. "He just came because he was invited," said Nawir. "As for the details you can ask Ustad Somad yourself."
After Somad spoke, it was Gatot's turn on the stage. Gatot stated that he had come to Medan to appoint the new officials of the Indonesian Karate-Do Sport Federation. However, said Gatot, Edy Rahmayadi informed him that Somad and Zulkarnain would be at the event. "I often listen to the sermons of Ustad Somad, but this is the first time we are meeting. Praised be God," he said.