Police in East Jakarta say they are looking into allegations of religious discrimination in a public high school after a teacher allegedly drummed up support for Muslim candidates over their non-Muslim counterparts in the school's student union (OSIS) elections.
In late October, a religious studies teacher at SMAN 58, identified by his initials TS (56), reportedly sent several messages on a WhatsApp group comprising 44 students in his Islamic studies extracurricular group, known as Rohis.
"Assalamualaikum, beware not to choose candidates 1 and 2, who are non-Muslims. Whatever the case, we are the majority and we must have a leader who shares our beliefs," TS wrote.
"Please give your prayers and support to candidate 3... Rohis members, don't be a traitor, or else."
The screenshot of the chat has gone viral and sparked outrage in the capital. The East Jakarta Police received a formal complaint against TS on Monday.
"The plaintiff has filed a complaint and the Crime Investigation Unit is looking into it," East Jakarta Police Deputy Chief Steven Tamuntuan said. "We will first clarify [with TS] and collect evidence."
Police have not disclosed the identity of the plaintiff. It's also not known who shared the screenshot in the first place.
The school has said that TS was only speaking on his behalf and not that of the school, which promotes religious tolerance.
Jakarta Vice Governor Ahmad Riza Patria called on the capital's Education Board to sanction TS on top of any possible criminal charges related to hate speech that he may face. The board has actually heard TS' testimony in October, during which time he admitted to wrongdoing and apologized.
It's hardly surprising that religious bias and discrimination could be so pervasive in Jakarta that it has penetrated into the education sphere. The idea that a non-Muslim cannot lead a majority Muslim population was aggressively promoted by hardline Islamic groups when Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was governor.
In 2017, Ahok was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy against Islam. The court found him guilty of the crime after he urged his supporters to ignore political rivals who use verses of the Quran to convince Muslims that voting for a non-Muslim is forbidden.