Indonesian President Chooses Muslim Cleric as Running Mate

Ma'ruf Amin is an Indonesian Islamic scholar, seventh leader of the Indonesian Ulema Council as well as the tenth chairman of the advisory council of en:Nahdlatul Ulama.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has chosen a hardline Muslim cleric as his running mate in next year’s presidential election, hoping to improve his credentials among the country’s Islamic population.

“The meeting between Jokowi and other party leaders and secretaries-general decided to name Ma’ruf Amin as Jokowi’s running mate,” Widodo’s PKB party secretary-general Abdul Kadir Karding said on Twitter on Thursday.

Ma’ruf Amin, who was chosen from a list of 10 possible candidates, came as a surprise choice to many after former chief justice Mahfud MD claimed he was selected as Widodo’s vice presidential choice just hours earlier.

“Maybe there are questions from the people all over Indonesia why Professor Dr. Ma’ruf Amin was chosen. Because he is a wise religious figure,” said Widodo. “I think we complete each other, nationalistic and religious.”

Amin, who is the leader of the influential Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s top Muslim clerical body that unites many Muslim organizations, has previously worked as a presidential adviser and has served in local and national legislatures in the past.

However, some human rights campaigners claim that Amin is a religious extremist who preaches discrimination against homosexuals and the enforcement of blasphemy laws.

“He issued fatwas condemning religious and gender minorities like the Ahmadiyah and LGBT individuals at a time they were subject to violent assaults,” Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono told Reuters.

“He also oversaw the creation of so-called religious harmony forums across the country,” Harsono added. “These forums replaced the principle of religious freedom, stoked divisions and favored the majority Sunni Muslim community.”

As noted by the Jakarta Post, Amin has previously “supported controversial regulations, including the Pornography Law and the joint ministerial decree banning the activities of minority group Ahmadiyah, saying in 2013 that such regulations were ‘very much expected.'”

Amin’s selection will cause concern among those opposed to Indonesia’s increasingly brutal approach to enforcing Sharia Law, with Indonesia still the world’s largest Islamic country and the world’s third largest democracy. Multiple public figures, including Governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, have been found guilty of violating Islamic blasphemy laws.

The country’s presidential election will take place in April of next year. The only other declared candidate thus far is Prabowo Subianto, a businessman, politician, and former Lieutenant General of the Indonesian National Armed Forces.

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