Protesters gather at the original Dec. 2, 2016, rally in which an estimated 700,000 Muslims demanded that then Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama be jailed for blasphemy. (Photo: Ryan Dagur/ucanews)
A senior Muslim cleric in Indonesia has called on a hardline Islamic group to call off its large anniversary rally next month, saying it is unnecessary and provocative. Dubbed the 212 protest, the march celebrates a Dec. 2, 2016, rally that kicked off a successful campaign to oust Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — known as Ahok — and jail him for insulting the Quran. Reunion rallies, attended by thousands, have since been held every year by Muslim hardliners to mark the anti-Purnama protest. However, according to Muhammad Cholil Nafis, head of Islamic preaching at the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s top Islamic clerical body, the annual march is provocative and should be stopped. “It is not important and should not become an annual religious activity,” he told reporters on Nov. 25.
He said the so-called 212 Reunion group organizing the rally was a political and legal movement that served a particular purpose. Purnama served his time in jail for blasphemy, so their cause is over now, he said. He called on the group to focus on national reconciliation. “What happened in the past must be forgotten,” he said. If they want to mark something, then they should hold a celebration to commemorate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad instead, he said. This year the birthday commemoration, known as Maulid Nabi Muhammad, was held on Nov. 9. Awiet Masyhuri, one of the organizers of the rally, dismissed the call, saying the march has nothing to do with politics. “It is true that 212 refers to the anti-Ahok protest. But all we are marking is the unity Muslims showed when they gathered for the anti-Ahok protest. We want to maintain this spirit of unity,” he told ucanews. The 212 Reunion march is due to take place near the National Monument in Jakarta on Dec. 2, the anniversary of the original protest. It also takes place a few weeks after Purnama was named president commissioner at state-owned oil company Pertamina. He was appointed on Nov. 22 as part of a government effort to make radical changes in the country’s largest company, which is often criticized for having ineffective bureaucracy and being riddled with corruption. Masyhuri has said his group has no problem with the appointment as long as Purnama “does not touch the issue of religion, which hurts the sentiments of people.” Jakarta police chief Insp. Gen. Gatot Eddy Pramono declined to say what security measures would be taken for the rally but called on organizers to make sure it passes off peacefully,
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