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Jakarta Should Be Led by a Leader Who Is Loved by His People

At the end of 2016 Indonesia experienced an unusual political uproar. On November 4th and December 2nd, hundreds of thousands (some sources say millions) of Muslims flocked to Jakarta for a peaceful protest in response to the desecration of the Holy Qur’an by the governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, more familiarly known as Ahok. The governor was caught uttering controversial statements in which he stated that Muslims should not be deluded by the Qur’anic chapter of Al-Maidah verse 51, which prohibits Muslims from choosing non-Muslims as their leaders.

According to many in the mainstream press, the two mass demonstrations were not merely responses to Ahok’s statement, but also showcased hatred against Ahok who happens to have a double minority status; he is of Chinese descent and is a Christian. There were also a number of media who reported the peaceful demonstrations as a form of ‘intolerance’ from the Muslim majority towards the minority. This is contrary to the image that is echoed around the globe that Muslims in Indonesia are examples of how Islam could go hand in hand with democracy.

Whatever it is, there is one thing that is probably ignored surrounding the Ahok’s issue. What are the necessary qualities that a leader should possess?

Unquestionably, a leader is required to have the capacity and the capability to lead his or her people. This is particularly true in the era of globalization where people are interconnected and dependent on one another. However, are capacities and capabilities enough for someone to become a leader of the people? The answer should be no. There are several other qualities that should be possessed by a leader, so as to not fall into a hole as Ahok did.

First and foremost is modesty. It cannot be denied that by nature human beings dislike harshness, either in speech or in behavior. People tend to love refinement, gentleness, and hospitality. When there is somebody who greets him with a smile, he will feel happy. It is likely that he will reciprocate kindness with kindness. But if there is somebody who insults or mocks him, the man will feel pain in his heart. His feeling will be torn apart. His pride will be trampled. This is because human beings are not only composed of a physical body, but also of a subtle feeling known as the soul. This is also what differentiates a human being from a robot or a doll. A robot would not feel anything when rebuked or a doll will not feel pain when struck with a hard object many times. But of course, human beings are neither robots nor dolls.

The second is to have an affectionate character. This trait has to be possessed by leaders everywhere on this earth. A leader should not be viewed by the people he leads with a look of hostility. Those who are marginalized and live under the bridge should not be seen as ‘garbage of the city’ that must be thrown away. The homeless who do not have places to live should not be considered as a group of lazy people. The buskers, beggars, and hawkers should not be seen as destructive to the beauty of the city. They are all people who should be cherished by their leader. Their complaints should be heard and addressed. It is permissible to face them with firmness, but it must also be accompanied with affection. Therefore, by any measure, these people are legitimate members of society. They have a right to a better life same as the CEOs of companies, state officials, or big businessmen. When a leader loves the fortunate due to their contributions, a leader is also obliged to love those who are not so lucky. This is because they are a reminder to the leader that he or she still has work to do in order to equalize welfare.

Thirdly, a leader must be able to control him or herself. A leader must have patience and suppress anger and rage when things go wrong. Leaders must express anger and at the same time dignity so that their people can retain their pride in their leadership . Nonetheless, a leader’s self-esteem must be maintained so that the people under him will obey his orders and follow the rules made by the government. Therein lies a serious challenge for a leader. A leader is not only required to have leadership skills but also be a role model. And to do so, a leader must control himself as well as adapt to different situations and pressures.

Lastly, a leader should respect the religious beliefs of others. A leader cannot, intentionally or not, abuse the religion and the beliefs of his people. Religion and belief is very sacred for every person. It is stored deep in his heart. Even when others cannot understand another’s beliefs or calling them irrational, they seem to not care because for them religion is not always understood by the mind, but felt in the heart. Therefore, due to the sacredness of this feeling, it is in any way forbidden for a leader to speak or do something that leads to the abuse of religion or beliefs of the people he or she leads. For insulting religion and belief is tantamount to insulting the most important element of their life.

The four qualities above should be noted by whoever will become the governor of Jakarta. The current governor is known for his ballpark and misguided attitudes that are disliked by many people. He did not hesitate to scold with profanity when he was interviewed by one of national TV stations. Ahok’s affectionate character seems limp and only supportive towards those who are wealthy. To those who are less fortunate, Ahok did not hesitate to hurt them, even evict them from their homes.

Ahok has also been caught insulting certain religions or beliefs. The first was towards Christianity which he called ‘ridiculous teaching’ and the most recent which triggered huge protests by Muslims at the end of last year.

Qur’an desecration by Ahok has been dragged into court. His temperament and rugged character have also caused him to loose sympathy among people who were once supportive of him. Of course, this is an important lesson to understand by whoever will become the governor of Jakarta: a leader is not only required to have leadership skills, but also tolerance, patience, love for all people, and respect for the religion and beliefs of others. If these traits exist, then becoming a leader loved by the people is no longer impossible.