Indonesia and Malaysia have been known as role models of Muslim-majority democracies that are moderate and pluralistic. But the politicisation of religion in recent years has led to religious minorities in both countries feeling increasingly threatened / By Benedict Rogers
The Christian governor of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is in jail for blasphemy. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as “Ahok”, was a popular governor, well respected for his fight against corruption and his efforts to improve Jakarta’s public services.
As a member of two minorities – ethnic Chinese and Christian – governing the capital of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, he was a poster boy for Indonesia’s tradition of pluralism and religious tolerance. Yet he was defeated in elections in April largely because his political opponents played the religion card.