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More calls for Christian governor’s arrest

JAKARTA (UCAN): About 700,000 people gathered in Jakarta on December 2 to demand the arrest of the Christian governor of the city, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, for blasphemy.

In what became the third and largest rally over a two-month period, people dressed in white packed the National Monument Square and its surrounds from 8.00am onwards.

The president, Joko Widodo, vice president, Jusuf Kalla, and several ministers joined Friday prayers at the protest.

“We gather here to answer the call of Islam and Allah,” Bachtiar Nasir, a Muslim cleric who heads the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa, said at the rally.

“Today, we defend the Qur’an. In the future, the Qur’an will defend us,” he added.

A person named Azlan said that he travelled by boat to the protest to demand that the governor, known popularly as Ahok, be jailed.

“We want all Muslims to demand the arrest of Ahok. He insulted the Qur’an. He must be jailed,” he said.

Hendro Abu Mustafa, a member of the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, an Islamic political organisation, heard that Ahok had insulted the Qu’ran. “So my participation in this rally is to uphold my faith and to defend what I see as something holy,” he commented. 

“Perpetrators of similar cases are generally arrested. Why hasn’t Ahok been arrested yet? What is behind this?” he queried.

Blasphemy allegations against Ahok surfaced in early October, after a video of a September 27 speech in which he allegedly insulted the Qur’an went viral.

The Christian governor of Chinese descent had urged voters not to be dissuaded from supporting him because of some Qur’anic verses that forbid non-Muslims ruling over Muslims.

The Attorney General’s Office announced on November 30 that it had approved the case against him. If found guilty Ahok could face up to five years in prison.

Political, Legal and Security Affairs minister, Wiranto, told reporters that Widodo thanked the protesters for being peaceful.

“The president joined in Friday prayers at the National Monument Square. In his speech, he appreciated all Muslims particularly those coming from afar that gathered here to listen to sermons and pray together,” he said.

He called on people to be patient over the blasphemy case.

“Let’s be patient and wait for the legal process. I assure you that the government, particularly the president, will never interfere with the legal process. Let it happen fairly,” he said.

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