Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Indonesia Correspondent
JAKARTA – Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was just released from prison last week after serving a two-year sentence for blaspheming against Islam, is now being attacked by critics over another hot-button issue.
The Chinese-Christian politician, who battled corruption and improved health care when he governed the Indonesian capital between 2014 and 2017, is being criticised on social media by Muslims who are accusing him of making the Muslim woman he plans to marry commit apostasy.
Other Muslims, however, have defended Mr Basuki, arguing that no one should meddle with his personal life and that people have the right to follow any religion.
Mr Basuki, 52, popularly known as Ahok, has said he plans to remarry. The bride-to-be, who comes from a Javanese Muslim family, is Ms Puput Nastiti Devi, 21, who used to be a policewoman and aide of Mr Basuki’s former wife.
Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, does not recognise the marriage if the man and woman are from different religions. In many cases, one converts to the other’s religion, or they travel to another country to get married.
The brouhaha surrounding Mr Basuki’s planned marriage started not long after a video showing Ms Puput and himself singing at a service led by a Christian pastor went viral. The thankgsgiving service was held last Thursday, when Mr Basuki was freed from prison, and attended by family and close friends.
News portal Kumparan.com reported that the couple’s pre-marriage documentation identified Ms Puput as a Christian. Another site vivanews.com reported that the couple would tie the knot in a Christian wedding.
Mr Basuki divorced his former wife Veronica Tan last year, after more than 20 years of marriage.
The divorce came a year after a Jakarta court sentenced him in May 2017 to two years’ jail, after finding him guilty of insulting Islam – a verdict widely seen as being caused by political pressure from conservative Muslim groups.
Neither Mr Basuki nor Ms Puput has spoken about the alleged conversion.
Commenting on reports that Mr Basuki is marrying a Muslim woman, Islam-based United Development Party politician Andi Soedirman said Muslims would have even less sympathy for Mr Basuki if he went ahead with the plan to marry her. He added that Ms Puput has the legal right to convert.
The issue has divided opinion on social media. Twitter user David Ridwan, in a post, said: “Ahok is initiating very dangerous and controversial debates again. This looks like Ahok is taking revenge, by way of making a Muslim woman commit apostasy.”
Another Twitter user, Mr Jeffery Coumbour, said: “Ahok, I am very disappointed… You should marry a woman of your own religion.”
Others defended Mr Basuki. Indonesian artist Sudjiwo Tedjo, who has a large Twitter following, said: “I am not a fan of Ahok but I am ok with a would-be bride of Ahok or anybody converting before marriage.”