Jakarta protests: Muslims turn out in force against Christian governor Ahok

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Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 02 December 2016| 02 Rabi Ul Awal 1438

Huge crowds of Muslim protesters have descended on Jakarta to demand the Indonesian capital’s Christian governor be arrested for insulting Islam.

There was heavy security at the rally on Friday with authorities wary of the kind of violence that marred the last demonstration.

People headed towards a massive park in downtown Jakarta to protest against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, who has become the target of widespread anger in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Waving banners that read “Jail Ahok, the law must be fair”, demonstrators dressed in white Islamic skullcaps and robes marched through the streets. Many had travelled from outside the capital to take part.

“All we want is justice, and by justice I mean Ahok being detained,” said Ricky Subagia, 26, who had come 200km (120 miles) from the town of Garut.

Authorities did not have an immediate estimate of numbers although tens of thousands appeared to be on the streets. Police said they expected at least 150,000 to take part.

Purnama, Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor in half a century, is already being prosecuted for allegedly committing blasphemy over comments he made about the Koran in an election campaign.

But he has not been detained and conservative Muslim groups are now pushing for his arrest.

The case is viewed in part as a test of religious tolerance for Indonesia, where minorities have increasingly come under attack in recent years and the government stands accused of failing to rein in fringe  groups.

But critics say it is as much about politics and accuse opponents of Purnama, also a member of Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority, of whipping up anger and encouraging the protests to reduce his support ahead of February polls for the governorship.

Thousands of police and soldiers were deployed to keep the peace at Friday’s rally, which could dwarf a protest of a few weeks earlier that brought 100,000 people on to the streets and was the biggest demonstration the city had seen in years.

The 4 November protest descended into violence as night fell, with protesters hurling missiles at security forces, who responded with tear gas and water cannon.

One person was killed and hundreds injured.

Police named Purnama as a suspect in a blasphemy investigation in November following the protest as calls mounted for him to prosecuted.

The governor had accused his opponents of using a Koranic verse that suggests Muslims should not choose non-Muslims as leaders in order to trick people into voting against him.

File Photo – Thousands have marched against alleged blasphemous remarks made by Jakarta’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok.

Indonesia – 70,000 liters of water prepared for ablution at Muslim rally

Source – The Guardian