Lenny Tristia Tambun
Dangdut star Rhoma Irama has stuck by his controversial statement calling for Jakartans not to vote for any non-Muslim candidates in next month’s gubernatorial election runoff.
Rhoma, who failed to appear on Friday at the Jakarta Elections Supervisory Body (Panwaslu) office to explain the remark made last Saturday, denied that he was a member of the campaign team of Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo.
He said he was convinced he had done nothing wrong because he had merely quoted a verse from the Koran stating that Muslims should never choose a kafir , or infidel, to lead them, otherwise they would incur God’s wrath.
“Was that wrong? I believe in the truth of the Koran and I was simply telling the truth,” he insisted.
“It is my duty to reveal the truth to the Muslim faithful.”
Rhoma added that although he felt justified in what he did, he was still willing to accept whatever punishment Panwaslu ordered if it found that his sermon on July 28 at Al Isra mosque in Tanjung Duren, West Jakarta, violated campaign regulations.
His statement, which was caught on video, was believed to be a swipe at Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, the Christian running mate to the Solo mayor and Jakarta election front-runner Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi.
The pair won 43 percent of the vote in the first round of balloting on July 11, ahead of Fauzi and his running mate, Nachrowi Ramli, who got 34 percent.
Prior to the July 11 vote, Rhoma was one of the many celebrities who endorsed Fauzi, performing at one of the incumbent’s campaign rallies.
Panwaslu officials met on Friday with representatives from the Jokowi-Ahok campaign team to study the seven-minute video of Rhoma’s sermon and determine whether it violated prohibitions on campaigning along ethnic and religious lines.
Ramdansyah, the Panwaslu chairman, said that even if no campaign violation could be proven, it was still wrong of Rhoma to use a religious sermon to attack another individual, particularly if the attack was along religious lines.
He said his office was working with the Jakarta Broadcasting Commission (KPID), police and prosecutors to determine if there was a polling violation, in which case Rhoma could face criminal charges.
For its part, the Jokowi-Ahok team said it had forgiven Rhoma. “We don’t expect an apology from him over this matter, but it will show a great deal of character if he chose to give one,” said Denny Iskandar, a campaign team official.