James Massola, Jakarta – On paper, the two men couldn't be much more different.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, is an ethnically-Chinese Christian former governor of Jakarta who was released from jail on Thursday after serving nearly two years for blasphemy.
The other man, Abu Bakar Bashir, is an 81-year-old firebrand cleric and spiritual leader of the Bali bombers who is much better known to Australians.
Bashir was set for a shock early release from jail on Wednesday, though that move was scotched at the last minute after Indonesian President Joko Widodo faced a significant backlash from moderate supporters.
The release of Ahok and ongoing detention of Bashir has dominated Indonesian news for the last week, and played out against the back drop of simultaneous Presidential and parliamentary election campaigns which will conclude on April 17.
Viewed through Australian eyes, it may seem that the week's events can be neatly summed up as delivering a victory for the forces of modernity and moderation in Indonesia and a blow to the more conservative, hardline forces.
It isn't as simple as that. Indonesia's state ideology, Pancasila, emphasises pluralism and tolerance.
But Islamist groups are playing an increasingly influential role in the political system of Australia's near-northern neighbour and that trend shows no sign of abating.
The country's blasphemy laws, used so effectively against Ahok, have become weaponised.
Just in the last year a woman was jailed for complaining the call to prayer from her local mosque was too loud; the daughter of the country's first president Sukarno was threatened with jail for allegedly insulting the Prophet in a poem (she delivered a grovelling apology); and a Christian student in Sumatra was jailed for a Facebook post that insulted the Prophet. These are just some examples.
At the same time, graves with Christian crosses on them were desecrated earlier this month in central Java and the local government in the town of Surakarta caved to public pressure to erase a mosaic (which was designed by a Muslim) that critics argued was shaped like a cross and therefore was offensive.
And while the President made a plea for tolerance during his state of the nation address last August, his selection of ageing Muslim cleric Ma'ruf Amin to be his vice presidential running mate highlights – as the would-be release of Bashir does – just how nervous the popular politician is that conservative Islamic forces will line up against him and help ensure his opponent Prabowo Subianto is elected.
Some commentators have suggested the protestations of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison over Bashir's release played a significant part in Widodo's change of heart (though the Prime Minister, to be fair to him, has claimed no credit). They are kidding themselves.
Canberra is still in bad odour in Jakarta because of last year's Israeli embassy move thought-bubble, the much-hyped free trade deal is still on ice and vice presidential candidate Amin, current vice president Jusuf Kalla and senior cabinet minister Luhut all suggested Australia should simply butt out on the Bashir matter.
The embassy brouhaha is just the latest speed bump in a relationship that is often fraught – the live cattle ban, boat turn-backs and the execution of two members of the Bali Nine are examples from the last decade.
It was primarily domestic politics and domestic disquiet – from nationalist forces inside the government defending Pancasila, and from moderate supporters of the President who swiftly took to social media to complain – that caused Widodo to backflip and decide he couldn't, after all, bend the rule of law to release Bashir and suit his own need to appeal to conservative Muslim voters.
And as a supporter of the opposition put it neatly on Facebook, before Widodo reversed course on the release, "I'm happy Bashir is being released but I'm not changing my vote from Prabowo".
In other words, there was little political dividend for Widodo in backing the release of Bashir even before he backflipped.
Instead Widodo succeeded in both temporarily alienating his base of moderates and nationalists and then infuriating the more conservative voters he was attempting to pander to.
Meanwhile Ahok, in a lengthy letter penned on the eve of his release, said he was happy to have lost his bid for re-election as governor in April 2017, and to have served his time in jail as it had made him a better, less arrogant person.
No where was there a suggestion of anger or regret from Ahok that he had been unfairly jailed for commenting on a verse in the Koran.
In the short term, the Ahok and Bashir cases are a reminder that Jakarta politics will remain febrile until the presidential election is held – so Canberra should tread carefully.
And in the longer term, they are a reminder the growing influence of political Islam in Indonesia means we will need to recalibrate our understanding of our northern neighbours.