Social Media Divides a Country

One YouTube upload ruins countless friendships and puts a governor on trial.


  1. In America, social media activity can sometimes be bad and lead to a barrage of misinformation and fake news being believed by the masses. This is alleged to have played a significant role in the latest presidential election of Donald Trump. Due to this, popular sites have now begun attempting to eliminate fake news.
  2. However, the misleading power of social media has been utilized to a much greater extent in Indonesia and is heavily affecting one of their elections. The election to determine the governor of their capital city, Jakarta.
  3. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly referred to by his nickname 'Ahok', has been serving as governor of Jakarta for the past two years. The majority of Indonesians are Muslim (87.2%), so him being a Christian of Chinese heritage and holding such a high office is somewhat of a rarity there. However, he has had a rather normal run as governor and was generally considered to have been doing a good job. He is up for re-election soon and made some statements which appeared on the news in late September.
  4. The statements were discussing what was, at the time, a relatively little known argument against him. Some of his opponents had claimed that a passage in the Qur'an (Surah Al-Maedah:51) means that you cannot elect a non-Muslim. This is a very commonly mistranslated line and in this case was being translated as "O you who have believed, do not elect the Jews and the Christians as leaders." Most scholars agree that the actual translation is "O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as patrons." A quick google search reveals an explanation of the line, provided by Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi (head of the Islamic Society of Orange county and instructor at Chapman University). He explains that the Qur'an was referring to a specific situation where Muslims wanted to take shelter in the homes of Christian and Jewish neighbors so that they would not be killed for being Muslim if the city was conquered, rather than helping to fight and defend the city.
  5. A few days after Ahok made the statements defending himself from the minor attacks, a man named Buni Yani cut out the first part of Ahok's speech and uploaded the video to YouTube on September 27th. He then posted it on his FaceBook with the title "PENISTAAN TERHADAP AGAMA?" (Translation: "An act of blasphemy?"), complete with a quote from the video that conveniently left out some words in the governor's speech.
  6. He has since removed the video from YouTube, so I can not show it here, but others have saved a copy and uploaded it themselves. Here is an upload showing both Ahok's original speech and the edited version by Buni Yani that he had uploaded:
  7. Video Asli Ahok Al Maidah vs Editan Buni Yani
  8. In the edited version, it was not clear what the governor was talking about. The full two sentences translate to "So, don't trust others. It is in the back of all of your minds that you can't choose me because you are fooled by people using Surah Al-Maedah:51 and other things. But it's your right to not vote for me [for legitimate reasons]." He later jokingly states that all the people that vote for him will not be going to Hell for it. The version uploaded by Yani begins at "You can't choose me...", which muddles the meaning of the second sentence to make it seem like he is saying "You can't choose me because you are fooled by Surah Al-Maedah:51..." Worse yet, the quote placed in Yani's post completely takes parts of sentences out of context and says "Ladies and gentleman [muslim voters]...fooled by Surah Al-Maedah:51...[and] going to Hell [you are all] fooled."
  9. The video, presented in this context, combined with the quote that made it seem certain that he was attacking the Qur'an and Muslims, was enough to ignite the masses. Yani's upload went viral and there was a massive reaction of outrage throughout the country. This was the predominant stance in the days following the upload.
  10. Translation: I'm sad if it is only for politics that we are attacking each other. Furthermore, he committed an act of blasphemy.
  11. Translation: God willing, Ahok will be charged soon after he said Surah Al-Maedah:51 was a lie.
  12. Translation: Drama keeps going, yet he keeps denying >> Ahok Is Ready To Be Interrogated
  13. Translation: Let's see if our country still has legal laws. Whenever our religion was offended, the law and media were dull. But if we point out the offense, somehow we are the bad guys. (The article is about alumni of a university pressing charges against Ahok for blasphemy.)
  14. Ahok, attempting to end this wave of criticism that was based on a misunderstanding perpetrated by Yani, actually joined the discourse by posting from his official Facebook account. He explained how he was not attacking the Qur'an and posted the full, uncut video so that everyone could see what he was really saying.
  15. Translation: Currently, my statement in a recorded video at an event at Seribu Island which made it seem like I was committing an act of blasphemy has gone viral. Here I provide the complete video without any omissions that the accusation is based on. I had no intention to talk bad about the Qur'an. I only don't like how some people use beautiful words, whether they be from the Qur'an, Bible, or any other religious books, for political purposes.
    Please watch the complete video on Youtube - Jakarta Local Government, especially from 23:40 to 25:35. Thank you.
    Basuki Tjahaja Purnama
  16. He likely hoped this would settle all the disputes about what he had said, or at least minimize the outlash. Many realized what had occurred at this point and began posting in support of Ahok and explaining that Buni Yani had purposely attempted to fool the people. A massive surge from the other side now swept over social media.