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Indonesian rally turns into blasphemy hunt

Muslim gathering wants ex-president's daughter, everyone involved in at least 20 cases jailed for insulting Islam

Indonesian rally turns into blasphemy hunt

Thousands of hardline Muslims attend the annual 212 Alumni Brotherhood rally at the National Monument in Jakarta on Dec. 2. (Photo: Konradus Epa/ucanews)

Hardline Muslim groups in Indonesia have called for the arrest and imprisonment of everyone accused of insulting Islam in at least 20 blasphemy cases.

The demand was made during a rally on Dec. 2 organized by the 212 Alumni Brotherhood to commemorate a mass protest on Dec. 2, 2016, that led to the ousting of Jakarta’s former Christian governor.

The 212 Alumni Brotherhood — an alliance of several radical groups including the Indonesian Defenders’ Front (FPI) — focused its celebration on going after all blasphemers. 

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The purpose of the original protest was to see Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, jailed for blasphemy for insulting the Quran in a campaign speech.

More than 10,000 people, including present Jakarta governor Anies Rasyd Baswedan, gathered for what has become an annual event at the National Monument in Jakarta.

Critics say the rallies are just an attempt by radical groups to show they are still strong in the face of  a government crackdown on hardliners

This year the groups called for people embroiled in 20 blasphemy cases to be jailed. They included the case of Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia’s first president Sukarno, who stands accused of blasphemy for allegedly comparing her father to the Prophet Muhammad in a Nov. 10 speech to commemorate national heroes.

“Through this event, we want to convey our message that the government has to listen to the voice millions of Muslims,” Novel Chaidir Hasan Bamukmin, spokesman for the 212 Alumni Brotherhood, told ucanews.

Bamukmin, also secretary-general of the Islam Defence Report Coordinator (Korlabi), said these blasphemy cases not only hurt Muslims in Indonesia but across the world.

The rally also featured a video message from the FPI leader and instigator of the 212 movement, Muhammad Rizieq Shihab.

"When blasphemy occurs, legal action must be taken,” said Shihab, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia for defaming Indonesia’s secular ideology.

“If law enforcers fail to uphold the law, more offenses will happen. We will organize more protests to pressure [the government and law enforcers] to arrest and prosecute them. Blasphemy deserves the death penalty."

Stanislaus Riyanta, an intelligence analyst from the University of Indonesia, said this year’s 212 reunion rally was a lame attempt to revive blasphemy as an issue to revitalize a movement that is no longer relevant politically.

“Blasphemy is useful to attract more people because each year the number of people attending this event has declined,” he told ucanews.

Inviting Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan to the event was just to try and claim more relevance, he said.

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