Thousands of Indonesian Muslims Protest Christian Governor of Jakarta

Muslim men raise their fists and shout slogans during a rally against Jakarta's minority Christian Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama who is being prosecuted for blasphemy, at the National Monument in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 2, 2016.
Muslim men raise their fists and shout slogans during a rally against Jakarta’s minority Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama who is being prosecuted for blasphemy, at the National Monument in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 2, 2016.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo made a surprise visit at a rally Friday in the capital where more than 200,000 protesters had gathered in a park to demand the arrest of Jakarta’s governor. He joined the white-robed crowd for prayers and urged the protesters to leave the demonstration peacefully.

Before the demonstration began, police arrested 10 people. National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said the group had planned “to incite people to overthrow the legitimate government using today’s mass rally.” He said the detainees had intended “to seize the Parliament building.” The charges against them included treason.

Officials said more than 20,000 security forces were deployed to insure the demonstration against Basuki Tjahaja Purnam did not become violent like a demonstration against him last month.

Basuki, a Christian who is known as Ahok, is seeking re-election as Jakarta’s governor in February. He is being prosecuted for blasphemy. The charges stem from a comment he made on the campaign trail earlier this year when he dismissed his political opponents who had cited a verse in the Quran that warns against Muslims supporting non-believers.

Ahok has since apologized and said he never intended to cause offense, but it has done little to placate many Muslims who are enraged that a majority Muslim city is administered by a Christian.

Critics say the central government, led by the president, has not done enough to face down radical Muslims groups and that hatred and bigotry have been allowed to grow.

Ahok is Jakarta’s first Christian governor in half a century. He is also the first ethnic Chinese to hold the governor’s post.

The November 4 demonstration against Ahok drew 100,000 protesters. The rally descended into violence at night fall, killing one person and injuring dozens more.

SOURCE: Voice of America