The Fate of Game Changer Ahok–Mass Protests

December 14, 2016

The Fate of Game Changer Ahok–Mass Protests

The huge increase in protesters from the first to the third rally against Ahok can be explained by participant mobilization theory, A’an Suryana writes.

Image result for Ahok- Governor of Jakarta

Certain radical and conservative groups, claiming to represent Islam, have held regular protests against incumbent Jakarta Governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias ‘Ahok’, since he assumed office in 2015. However, it is only recently that their initiative has drawn a massive turnout of protesters, the latest of these being the rally on 2 December 2016. Why the sudden change?

The successful framing of Ahok as a ‘blasphemous Jakarta governor defaming Islam’ struck a chord among many Indonesian Muslims, which spurred their widespread participation in the “Defending Islam” rallies of the past few weeks.

David A Snow and Robert D Benford propose that a successful people’s mobilisation depends on whether the leaders of a movement complete three core framing tasks. First, the identification of the problem followed by the attribution of blame. Second, the identification of a solution, as well as the strategy, tactics and targets to attain it. Third, a call to engage in corrective action. The higher the degree of interconnectedness and robustness among the three tasks; the higher chance of the people’s mobilisation achieving success.

These rallies have their origins in the frequent protests that conservative and radical organisations, such as the Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI), had previously organised against Ahok, who is of Chinese descent and Christian. Through the protests, the organisations were framing Ahok as someone who was not fit to lead a Muslim majority capital because of his religion. The Quran, according to their interpretation, prohibits Muslims from supporting non-Muslim leaders.

Image result for Ahok- Governor of Jakarta

These initial protests attracted only a low turnout, principally because the participating organisations suffered credibility problems due to their earlier, frequent participation in mass violence.

But, the anti-Ahok movement finally gained momentum after their target delivered a speech in the Thousand Islands, north of Jakarta, in late September 2016. Seeking re-election, Ahok lashed out at some politicians whom he claimed have used the Quran’s Al Maidah articles to undermine his re-election bid. It was not the first time that Ahok had used the exact same criticism against his politics opponents. But this time, his criticism caused a backlash. Two weeks after the speech, a lecturer’s Facebook post regarding the speech triggered further political tension in the capital. Spearheaded by the FPI, conservative and radical Islam organisations swiftly seized the opportunity to up the ante against Ahok by organising a protest on 14 October in front of Jakarta’s City Hall demanding Ahok’s imprisonment for defaming the Quran. While drawing only a few thousand people, it helped narrow down the attribution of blame. Before this first rally, Ahok was already the target of protests on various issues: his style of brash and blunt speaking, the eviction policy that alienated him from the poor and his Christian identity that some radical and conservative Islam organisations used to label him unfit for office. But, at that time, the protest agendas were disjointed, and failed to resonate with lay people.

Image result for Ahok- Governor of Jakarta

The period following the 14 October rally saw these organisations’ portrayal of Ahok as a blasphemous governor gain ground and start to resonate among those who identify themselves as Muslim. An increasing perception that the police were sluggish in responding to the demands for Ahok’s imprisonment also aided the mobilisation.

Sectarian sentiment received a significant boost after some individuals established a movement claiming to represent the influential cleric body, the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI). This movement, which called themselves the National Movement Guarding MUI’s Edicts, joined forces with the FPI to arrange an even bigger rally on 4 November.

At this stage, following Snow and Benford’s proposition on core framing tasks, the two movements’ leaders reached a consensus that the problem had been identified, namely Ahok’s alleged defamation of the Quran. They were already resolute about the effective strategy and solution that they needed to pursue; pushing for the state apparatuses to arrest Ahok in the blasphemy case. The third task, calling for corrective action, was no longer a daunting one as Muslims were already hearing the messages amplified through the Muslim conservative’s networks or the media.

The two movements grew, materialized in two rallies on 4 November and 2 December, after gaining either open or tacit support from social and political establishments, such as political parties fielding candidates to challenge Ahok in the gubernatorial election, or big moderate Muslim organisations such as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah. The social and political legitimacy that these organisations possess assured those identifying as Muslim that participating in anti-Ahok protests had merit. Together, these factors resulted in the massive turnout for the 4 November and 2 December rallies.

A’an Suryana is teaching this semester at the School of Government and Public Policy (SGPP), Sentul, West Java province.

7 thoughts on “The Fate of Game Changer Ahok–Mass Protests

  1. Hundreds, looks like close to a thousand, protested at the trial EVEN THOUGH IT IS ALREADY CLEAR ITS A LIE. Even just a few hundred – its a few hundred too many much less a thousand way too much..

    More important for us, Hadi Awang is on the side of these liars and abusers. Hadi’s PAS in on their side and believe that they have the prodigal Najib in their clutch to be used eventually for their own malicious intend.

    I say there is no natural right for the “deen”, and the traditional codified Syariah NOT necessary the way to the “deen” either. That debate has to be had now. That narrative has to be put before ALL PEOPLE, ALL NATION, ALL FAITH.

  2. “I saw to what extent the people among whom I lived could be trusted as good neighbors and friends; that their friendship was for summer weather only; that they did not greatly propose to do right; that they were a distinct race from me by their prejudices and superstitions, as the Chinamen and Malays are; that in their sacrifices to humanity, they ran no risks, not even to their property; that after all they were not so noble but they treated the thief as he had treated them, and hoped, by a certain outward observance and a few prayers, and by walking in a particular straight though useless path from time to time, to save their souls.” – Thoreau – 1849.

    The above seems to be more valid than ever. It is not about religion, but simply as what Thoreau mentioned.

  3. The protest in Jakarta shows when misusing religion (here, in the name of Islam, acting like God-Allah) and abusing the rights in democracy for political gains is very dangerous and harmful to the well-being of the country.

    Islam is the religion of the Federation of Malaysia.
    No doubt about it .
    But It must not be misused or abused or expanded to undermine the rights and tenents provided for all the people in the country.

    It is imperative that religion of any form be separated from politics absolutely. That is a crucial step in preventing opportunitic bigots,preachers or extremists from acting as if they are God-Allah.

  4. I dunno whether this article is about the process of cause-effect in people mobilization (protests) or about Ahok’s disingenuous use of Scripture which is not of his own religion. There is a standing rule which all of us must follow in public discussion spheres – stay away from blabbering ‘unquotable’ quotes.

    Whatever it is, it’s done and he’s gotta answer for it – even though his intentions were defensive rather than offensive. Shows you how smart Politicos are – even if intentions are good.

    It’s just like that Indian Muslim televangelist – whatshisname? Trying to quote religious scripture of others to show off his so-called eidetic memory and ‘superiority’ of his beliefs – without understanding context. Thereby causing criticism, mayhem and disgust among Others – besides revealing the sheer hypocrisy and idiocy among his anal retentive admirers, including PASUMNOb dung-beetles.

    Look, both Christianity and Islam are ‘Logocentric’ (Word/Scripture based) but are totally incompatible in that the Christian view is based on faces, images and deeds, while the Muslim one is based on a string of Arabic alphabets that form ‘divine’ words.

    You may quote whatever scripture that you personally subscribe to and let others use their own. What is simpler than that? Religion is communal, Faith is personal.

  5. – There is a standing rule which all of us must follow in public discussion spheres – stay away from blabbering ‘unquotable’ quotes.

    Is John Rawl’s ‘veil of ignorance’ is what you have in mind in the above?

    It has been a few years of personal thinking on my own part trying to wrap my own mind on trying to figure out how to grok John Rawl, as technology has definitely increasingly help lifted the veil or obfuscated the real picture. It seems to be more than simple empathy.

    Just wanted to learn more from your mentioned line of thought, and hoping that you could elaborate a little bit more on that.

    For Malaysians, to me, it seems we have decided on a strategy of a veil of obfuscation. In America, I guess a lot of people just don’t care less, especially with the dawning of a Trump world.

  6. Sorry katasayang.
    Don’t know anything about veils – except unveiling – like Revelations?

    But reading that wiki article, it seems to me that enlightened politicos must go much more than the normal Maslowian Hierarchy of Needs. I prefer Manfred Max-Neef’s Fundamentals:

    In Ahok’s case, I was reminded of Ec 5:2 – ‘therefore let your words be few.’ He unfortunately argued from the point of Vanity.

    Always remember, knowledge is but a blunt tool. What is needed, especially in this ‘Age of Information’ is Wisdom or Discernment. Only then is it possible to feign ‘Ignorance’.

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