Jakarta’s Christian Governor, Basuki Cahaya Purnama, also known as Ahok, is to be tried for blasphemy after around 100,000 Muslim radicals took to the streets and demanded he be prosecuted.
The governor has been accused of ‘desecrating’ the Quran when he said in a speech that Islamic groups who were using a verse from the Quran to discourage support for him were deceiving voters. The verse is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim. Islamic groups then accused him of criticising the Quran.
Despite a public apology, Ahok will now stand trial.
ONE DIES AS PROTEST TURNS VIOLENT
Initially, the rally of around 100,000 Muslim radicals from across Indonesia was peaceful, even though they were calling for Ahok be prosecuted for blasphemy. Later, though, it turned violent: one protestor died, police officers were injured, and two motorcycles were burnt.
President Joko Widodo, who inaugurated Ahok as governor, expressed his views on the protest: “I deeply regret the chaos later in the evening. Political actors are taking advantage of the situation.”
LOCAL ELECTIONS PUT PRESSURE ON AHOK
Ahok’s case is a classic example of how religion is used for political gains in Indonesia.
In February 2017, local elections throughout the country will see cities and provinces choose their mayors and governors. Ahok is running for a second term as Governor of Jakarta, along with two other candidates, one of whom is the former president’s son.
Religious unrest has clearly been been stirred to deter his candidateship and damage his rising popularity – despite the governor’s successes in reforming the capital.
REPERCUSSIONS OF THE UNREST: CHRISTIANS VULNERABLE
An Open Doors field researcher explains some of the implications of Ahok’s accusation: “In a recently circulated video clip, a hardline group leader was caught saying the same remark as Ahok about the Quran. Quite predictably, it wasn’t deemed as blasphemy.
“While persecution of Christians in Indonesia is nothing new, it’s perhaps the first time that it’s blatantly being used against a high-ranking public official at a national level. This will not happen without repercussions in the grassroots.”
It’s possible that those repurcussions included the recent church bombing in Kalimantan where a toddler died and three others were injured. This terrible attack took place nine days after the protest against Ahok.
Source: Open Doors