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Indonesia lacks answers to rise of political Islam

Widodo poorly placed to defend traditions of pluralism and tolerance

| Indonesia
Supporters of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama light candles and shout slogans during a rally outside Cipinang Prison where he is being held after a court sentenced him to two years in prison, in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 9. (AP)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has suffered two successive setbacks since his ally and former deputy Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok as he is widely known, was accused of insulting Islam earlier this year. In the most recent blows, Purnama failed to win re-election in April as governor of Jakarta. Then, at the end of his trial for blasphemy, he was unexpectedly sentenced to two years' jail, a harsher penalty than even the prosecutor had asked for. These events were a victory for the radical Muslim organizations that had spearheaded a campaign against Purnama, including the staging of mass rallies.

Apparently in response to the Jakarta election result, the Widodo government recently announced it was seeking to ban one of those Islamic organizations, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI). This is a risky option. It is far from certain that Widodo will be able to persuade the judicial system to impose a ban.

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