(CNN)Indonesians this week got a taste of how far their outwardly secular President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, would go to buttress his reelection campaign against attacks from Islamic hardliners who don't see him as Muslim enough to lead.
Indonesia's Jokowi is walking a tightrope as he tries to appeal to Muslim voters
Jihadi cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is currently facing a parole review after serving two-thirds of a 15-year sentence for facilitating a terror training camp. Bashir is best known as the "spiritual leader" of the homegrown terror network that carried out the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people.
Jokowi's first instinct was to sympathize with the 81-year-old's ailing health. Family members say Bashir can no longer walk, and he likely does not have many years left.
This concern was immediately rejected as misplaced and cynical by many of Jokowi's liberal supporters as well as hardliners who never believed he had the religious credentials to lead the world's largest Muslim nation, said Ian Wilson, an Indonesia expert at Australia's Murdoch University.
"It was a poorly executed political gambit," Wilson said. "Jokowi could see Bashir's parole date was approaching but knew that he would never fulfill the requirements."