Trump already a tainted name in Indonesia after Muslim ban remarks

  • JIM YOUNG

By Fransiska Nangoy and Randy Fabi

BOGOR/JAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Few villagers living near a half-built golf course in Indonesia's West Java province know the name Donald Trump, and fewer still are aware that one of his firms will be managing a six-star hotel and luxury resort in their backyard.

But in the capital Jakarta, a growing number of Indonesians want the U.S. presidential candidate and his businesses banned from the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation after Trump pledged to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the United States if elected.

The anger simmering across the Pacific is a likely preview of the strained relations a Trump presidency could expect not only in Indonesia, but from the rest of the Muslim world.

Indonesia, whose more than 200 million Muslims largely practice a moderate form of Islam, has close relations with the United States. Many Indonesians think highly of President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Jakarta.

"If (Trump) continues his racist position, it will bring danger to American assets," Hasanuddin, a parliamentarian who is also a member of the assembly's commission overseeing foreign policy, told Reuters. "Donald Trump's arrogance could be harmful for U.S. citizens around the world."

Fadli Zon, the deputy speaker of the house, told Reuters he would seek restrictions on U.S. trade and investment if Trump became president.

The United States is Indonesia's second-largest export market, worth about $16 billion last year, and is a popular study destination with children of the elite.

An online petition, set up anonymously, is urging Indonesian President Joko Widodo to ban the billionaire and his businesses from the country and has received more than 45,000 signatures.

"Donald Trump doesn't want Muslims of the world to enter the United States... so we should do the same to him," signatory Ayu Dyah wrote on the petition website. "Condemn, refuse and boycott every Donald Trump business and his affiliations...We should prove that we have power."

Widodo has not responded to the petition.

BLACK MARK FOR BUSINESS

Trump's comments on Muslims have already provoked strong reactions elsewhere, with British politicians in January debating barring the real estate tycoon from entering the country, where he also has business interests.

The hostility toward Trump could threaten his company's expansion efforts into Southeast Asia's largest economy, Indonesian lawmakers and government officials said.

"It's just his statement hurts many people in this Muslim-majority country," Edy Putra Irawady, Indonesia's deputy chief economic minister, told Reuters. "Surely it will be a black shadow for his business."

Representatives for Donald Trump did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump Hotels Collection last year announced a partnership with Indonesia's PT Media Nusanta Citra (MNC) to manage new luxury hotels on Bali and in West Java, the Trump unit's first foray into Asia.

In Bali, one of Asia's most popular holiday destinations, Trump Hotels will operate a six-star hotel built atop a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean and Tanah Lot, a popular sea temple located on a small rock formation.

"BUSINESS IS BUSINESS"

MNC, which will be building both resorts, declined to comment on Trump's politics.

"Business is business. The implication for wider Indonesia, we have to see later," said Syafriel Nasution, corporate secretary of MNC Group, adding that he had not seen any damage to the company's brand due to its relationship with Trump.

MNC Group is controlled by billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo, Indonesia's 28th richest person, who also owns four national television stations and last year launched a new political party.

A senior member of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organization, said protests were possible if Trump becomes president, though none were yet planned.

"Indonesian Muslims are very strongly united," said Abdul Mu'thi, the group's secretary general. "If he is elected, there will be a strong reaction from Indonesian communities to any business that is run by Donald Trump."

In West Java, near where Trump's golf resort will be built, one villager said he had never heard of Trump and wouldn't be protesting against him.

"If we protest, he will likely close his business," said Agus, who owns a small mobile phone shop. "And for the time being, earning money is hard."

(Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor, Hidayat Setiaji, Gayatri Suroyo and Yuddy Cahya in Jakarta; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

This article was funded in part by SAP. It was independently created by the Reuters editorial staff. SAP had no editorial involvement in its creation or production.

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