Indonesian capital Jakarta is hunkering down to brace for a potentially violent rally that Islamist hardliners are organising on Friday, in protest against the city's Chinese Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok.
It is reported that thousands of conservative Muslims under various hardline banners are expected join the anti-Ahok rally on 4 November (Friday) to protest against the alleged profanities by the Chinese origin Christian governor. It is feared that the rally not only will spur ethnic and religious tensions in the country and jeopardise next year's much-anticipated Jakarta gubernatorial race, in which Ahok is seeking a second term.
The protest comes three weeks after a similar protest took place in Jakarta. The Jakarta Globe reported that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had a meeting with the leaders of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah in the State Palace on Tuesday to discuss the situation.
'Punish Ahok or our bullets will'
After the discussion NU Supreme Council chairman Ahmad Ishomuddin urged people not to participate in the rally. "Muslims should avoid the rally and not create troubles. We hope the demonstration will pass peacefully. We certainly don't want any casualty," said Ahmad according to the news portal.
Ahmad said that the Muslim groups have decided that they will not prevent their members to take part in the rally, but urges them not to take part in the rally in the name of the organisations. "We've told our members who want to join the demonstration not to wear our uniforms or accessories," he added. Two other Muslim groups have also called on members to stay away from the rally.
However, Nasir Abas, a former terrorist who is now a consultant to the police, revealed that several jihadist outfits are exhorting their rank and file to unleash violence. He showed the police a picture of the members of Syria-based jihadist group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham holding a sign that said: Punish Ahok or our bullets will," according to Sydney Morning Herald.
Ahok's criticism of Quran
Governor Ahok was highly condemned for allegedly misquoting a verse from the Quran during one of his speeches in September. During the speech, Ahok criticised his opponents for citing a verse in the Quran which warns Muslims against forming an alliance with Christians and Jews saying that they were "lying". This led to an outrage and the governor was accused of criticising the Islamic holy text.
Since then The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which is the main group behind the rally, has led other hardline Muslim groups to condemn Ahok and demanded an apology for the blasphemy. Moreover, the groups have been pressing the police to investigate multiple reports they have filed against Ahok to which police replied that they will continue the investigation, reported Jakarta Globe.
FPI was formed in 1999 and it tried unsuccessfully in 2014 to block Ahok's appointment as the governor as it believes that a Christian should not lead a Muslim-majority city. "Muslims should put their trust in the government, that they will be fair in handling Ahok's case," Ahmad said, as reported.
"He will be sentenced if found guilty, or released if not. You don't need this massive rally to impose your will on others," he added.