Thousands of Muslims on Friday in Jakarta rallied against the city’s ethnic Chinese and Christian governor over comments perceived as insulting to Islam.
The protestors demanded Basuki Purnama be prosecuted over remarks he made in September.
They alleged that his opponents in next year’s gubernatorial election had used a verse in the Koran to deceive voters to prevent him from winning another term.
Purnama is seeking another term and is backed by President Joko Widodo’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle in the election scheduled for February 15, 2017.
One of the protesters said the text in question is Surah “Al-Mai’dah verse 51, which many Muslims in Indonesia interpret as prohibiting them from electing non-Muslims as their leaders.
He said blasphemy is defined in Indonesia as “publicly expressing hostility to, misusing or disparaging any of the recognised religions.”
Many dispute that the governor did in fact do this, including many Muslims, but the hardliners disagree.
Munarman, Spokesman for the Islamic Defenders’ Front, a hardline group, using Purnama’s Chinese nickname, insisted that Ahok must be arrested, not just questioned.
He said Purnama, the Muslim-majority city’s first ethnic Chinese governor, who is also a Christian, has a reputation for tough-talking and no-holds-barred speeches.
Munarman said his abrasive style has ruffled the feathers of city officials and other politicians.
“Purnama has apologised for the Koran remarks, but his expression of remorse failed to appease more hardline Muslims.
Muksin Tanjang, a 23-year-old protestor, said “This is about our faith; we want Ahok to be sent to jail and stripped of his job.”
National Police Chief, Tito Karnavian, called on protesters to do it in a peaceful manner, warning that they don’t want a repeat of happenings in Middle East like Syria and Iraq.
The officer warned that Muslim extremists could exploit the rally to spread chaos.
Karnavian said 60,000 protestors were estimated to be around but more than 2,000 police and soldiers were deployed to deal with any potential violence.
Former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose son is a contender in the gubernatorial election, has urged police to investigate Purnama.
He warned that there should be no impression that Ahok is above the law.
Yudhoyono said that under the Indonesian law, blasphemy is punishable by five years in prison.