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Hardliners demand death over Jakarta governor's alleged blasphemy

Christian governor accused of misquoting the Quran during a speech

Hardliners demand death over Jakarta governor's alleged blasphemy

A protester holds a banner: "Jakartans reject Ahok, kick Ahok out of Indonesia" on Oct. 14 in Jakarta. (ucanews.com photo)

Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta
Indonesia

October 18, 2016

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More than 10,000 Muslims from different hard-line organizations staged a rally at Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta after Friday prayers on Oct. 14 to demand the death penalty for Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

The Protestant governor, popularly known as "Ahok," had committed religious defamation, according to the protesters.

"We come here to uphold the greatness of Alla and to defend the Quran," Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, patron of the Islamic Defenders Front, said in a speech to the crowd.

The protest was organised four days after the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a statement saying that Ahok had blasphemed during a visit to the Thousand Island district on Sept. 27.

 

Thousands of Muslim hardliners take part in a protest on Oct. 14 demanding the death penalty for blasphemy allegedly committed by Protestant Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. (ucanews.com photo)

 

According to the council, Ahok cited a verse from the Quran that forbids Muslims to make Jews and Christians leaders. Ahok insulted the holy text when he asked voters not to let this verse deter them from choosing a non-Muslim leader in the regional elections scheduled for Feb. 15, 2017.

"In accordance with the council's statement all ulemas [religious scholars] and Muslims joining in this 'Protest to Defend Islam' call on the state and Indonesian government to immediately bring Ahok to justice," Shihab said.

"If the state and Indonesian government protects those committing blasphemy, We will call on all Muslims to uphold the Islamic law by giving a death sentence to those committing religious defamation," he added.

Asep Syarifuddin, chairman of the Alliance of Islamic Movement in West Java, said that he joined the protest to express his anger.

"We are here to urge the police to immediately arrest Ahok and put him in jail," he said. "I still have trust in the police but don't let me down."

Ali Imran, head of the Batam chapter of the Islamic Defenders Front, also joined the rally. "The legal process must go on. What matters to us is that Ahok is put in jail because of blasphemy," he said.

He also acknowledged that his group's participation in the protest had no political interest. "Just like the color of our attire: white. We are clean. There is no political interest behind this protest. Our religion and our group has no political agenda," he said. 

Ahmad Kurniawan, who heads the Bandung chapter of the Islamic Defenders Front, lamented that Ahok cited a verse from the Quran which he didn't understand well.

"We Muslims, feel very disappointed," he said. As a leader, he added, Ahok should have been wiser.

 

Muhammad Rizieq Shihab (holding microphone) delivers a speech during a rally on Oct. 14 held in the compound of Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta after Friday prayers. (Photo by Ryan Dagur)

 

Ahok had apologized before the council issued their statement.  

"I want to apologize to Muslims or other people who feel offended. I never intended to insult Islam or the Quran," he said, as quoted by The Jakarta Post on Oct. 10. 

However, Kurniawan said the law must be enforced despite his apology "because his remarks have hurt us."

Ahok's spokesman Raja Juli Antoni said that he had watched the video containing Ahok's remarks several times. "I think there is no element of defamation. Besides, Ahok has offered an apology. Let the police work professionally," he said.

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