Despite shedding a few tears, “king of dangdut” Rhoma Irama on Monday refused to apologize or express any regret for his religious slurs which were targeted at Jakarta vice gubernatorial candidate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.
Rhoma, known for his religious-themed songs, was summoned by the Jakarta Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) on Monday to explain his sermon made last week at the Al Isra Mosque in Tanjung Duren, West Jakarta, where he attacked Basuki’s religious background.
“Why should I apologize? I have done nothing wrong because I never said bad things about Jokowi-Ahok,” Rhoma said, referring to gubernatorial candidate and Solo Mayor Joko Widodo and running mate Basuki by their nicknames.
“I never said that Jokowi is a Javanese and a Muslim or Ahok is a Chinese and a Christian,” he said, adding that he was only quoting the Koran which he claimed instructed Muslims to only vote for Muslim leaders. “I must do what Allah has commanded.”
That call would greatly favor incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo and running mate Nachrowi Ramli, who are both Muslims.
There is evidence that contradicts Rhoma’s claim of never explicitly attacking Jokowi or Ahok, though — a video of the sermon that was provided to Panwaslu.
“Joko Widodo has greater ambition and is using the governorship as a stepping stone. Eventually the one leading Jakarta will be Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Chinese in ethnicity and a Christian,” Rhoma said in the video, copies of which were shown to journalists. “If the capital of a Muslim country is led by a Christian, it would be an embarrassment.”
Rhoma arrived at the Panwaslu office in Central Jakarta in a white Islamic garb, accompanied by a handful of fans who shouted praise to Allah as he entered the building.
The artist was in tears as he explained why he asked Jakarta residents to vote for a Muslim leader.
“I was only reciting An-Nisa Surah verse 144, in which God says firmly that the faithful are banned from voting for a kafir [infidel] as their leader,” Rhoma insisted before being questioned.
“Muslims who vote for a non-Muslim leader become an enemy of God.”
Ramdansyah, the Panwaslu Jakarta chairman, said his office had received the explanation it sought from Rhoma and that he was dismissed.
“For nearly one hour, Rhoma clarified his sermon at the Al-Isra mosque. He has explained his view and according to Panwaslu this is enough,” he said.
Ramdansyah said Panwaslu had not reached a conclusion as to whether a campaign violation had been committed.
Panwaslu, Ramdansyah continued, is set to solicit information from the campaign teams of Fauzi and Jokowi today.
He said earlier 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 and ethnic lines.
Jokowi and Ahok won 43 percent of the vote in the first round of balloting on July 11, ahead of Fauzi and Nachrowi, who received 34 percent.
Under the 2004 Law on Regional Governance, electoral campaigns may not insult other candidates or parties, especially by attacking their religion, ethnicity, race or group affiliation.
Those restrictions are collectively known as Sara.
The law stipulates prison sentences of between three and 18 months and fines of between Rp 600,000 to Rp 6 million ($64 to $640) for violating the rule.