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Indonesian military issues warning to Muslim hardliners

Vows to suppress planned protest against Jakarta's Christian governer, saying motives are political rather than religious

Indonesian military issues warning to Muslim hardliners

Din Syamsuddin, the chairman of Advisory Board of the Indonesian Ulema Council, says Muslims should not protest on the street but monitor the blasphemy case against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. (ucanews.com photo)

 

Indonesia's military has vowed to suppress another mass demonstration threatened by hard-line Muslims in Jakarta against the capital's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — popularly known as 'Ahok.'

The demonstration, scheduled for Nov. 25 to call for Ahok to be prosecuted for alleged blasphemy, would dwarf a protest staged on Nov. 4 in which one person died and at least 100 were injured, organizers said.

More than 100,000 people attended the Nov. 4 rally, according to organizers and authorities.

The threatened rally is to go ahead despite legal action being taken against the governor for allegedly insulting the Quran in a speech.

Growing fears that hard-line Muslims were pursuing a more sinister political agenda, prompted the head of the military to issue a stern warning not to stage the protest.

The Nov. 4 demonstration was the last, General Gatot Nurmantyo said Nov.17.

The military will take firm action if there is another demonstration, because it is no longer about blasphemy, but a move to topple the president, or to stir chaos in the country, the military chief said.

"Remember, Indonesia is not only about Islam, but also Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and other beliefs," Nurmantyo was quoted by news website detik.com as saying.

Mainstream Muslim groups also warned against staging another mass demonstration, amid mounting fears of rising extremism in Indonesia.

Islamic leaders are concerned and have called on Muslims not hit the streets again but instead wait and see how the blasphemy case against Ahok progresses, Din Syamsudin, chairman of Advisory Board of the Indonesian Ulema Council said.

"Another demonstration is not necessary. It's a waste of time and energy. The police have named him [Ahok] a suspect," said Syamsudin.

Eva Sundari, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, also discouraged Muslims from taking to the streets, saying the move would be an act of intimidation.

"Everyone must respect the law, and not intimidate, pressure, or threaten any legal process," she told ucanews.com.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called on Indonesian police to drop criminal proceedings against Ahok.

Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International's Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said the decision to investigate was more out of fear of hard-line groups rather than respecting and protecting human rights for all.

"Indonesia prides itself on its image as a tolerant country. This case would set a deeply worrying precedent, making it hard for the authorities to argue that they respect all faiths," Djamin said in a statement.

The police have admitted that not all investigators agreed to name the governor, who is of Chinese descent, as a blasphemy suspect. 

It's not clear yet when and if Ahok will face trial.

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