JAKARTA (Reuters) – About 100 residents of a gritty commercial district of Indonesia’s capital listen intently as a man roars into a microphone: “Are you ready to change our president? Are you ready for new leadership?”
But this is not a political rally. Dressed in white robes and a turban, Novel Bamukmin of the Jakarta chapter of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a hardline Islamist group, addresses evening prayers in a mosque.
As a year of local and then national elections begins this week in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, some Islamic leaders have emerged as the most vocal opponents of President Joko Widodo, who is expected to seek a second term next year.
They belong to a loose grouping of Islamists behind protests that culminated in the election defeat and jailing for blasphemy in 2017 of Jakarta’s ethnic-Chinese and Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Widodo ally.