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Jakarta on high alert as Muslim hard-liners plan mass protest

Fundamentalists are demanding the city's governor be given the death penalty for insulting Islam

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Jakarta on high alert as Muslim hard-liners plan mass protest

Muslim hard-liners chanted anti-Ahok slogans during a mass protest in Jakarta on Oct. 14. Islam Defender Front, the organizer of the rally, is known for violent protests and attacks against minorities around the country.

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The Indonesian capital is on high alert as thousands of Muslim hard-liners plan to flood the streets on Nov. 4 to demand the city’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, be punished for allegedly insulting Islam.

Fundamentalists claim the Protestant governor, popularly known as Ahok, insulted Islam during a campaign speech on Sept. 27 and have demanded he be given the death penalty.

National Police Chief, Tito Karnavian, said about 18,000 police and military personnel will be deployed to secure the city and avoid violence.

"Protesters plan to rally in front of the presidential palace, perhaps also at the parliament building. We will secure these places and other possible venues,"  media quoted Karnavian as saying on Oct. 31.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo warned yesterday that, while public demonstrations are a democratic right, protestors must not damage public property.

"The government guarantees the right to free speech but also gives priority to public order," he said in a statement on Oct. 31. "I have ordered security forces to perform their duties in a professional manner if anyone commits anarchy."

Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, founder and patron of the Islamic Defenders Front, told ucanews.com on Nov. 1 that Muslims will be ready for the Nov. 4 protest, though he is uncertain about how many will participate.

"Just wait and see on the day," he said.

Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, has discouraged members from taking part.

"This is a democratic nation. Anyone can protest, but it must be done peacefully," he said

Similarly, Achmad Nurcholish, a moderate and prominent Muslim intellectual, urged fellow Muslims to avoid violence.

"In a democratic system we cannot prohibit protests but I hope they do not become an angry mob. The state apparatus must be alert in anticipation of this," he told ucanews.com.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan from the law and human rights division of the Indonesian bishops’ conference said the church will tolerate the rally. "Let them protest and we will continue with our daily activities," he told ucanews.com.

Hard-liners saw red when Governor Ahok reminded voters from the Thousand Islands, a chain of islands off the Jakarta coast, not to be fooled by people using verses from the Quran to justify the idea that Muslims must not vote for a non-Muslim leader in next year's regional elections.

After the Indonesian Ulema Council, Indonesia's top Muslim clerical body, ruled the governor committed blasphemy, Ahok issued a public apology. But 10,000 Muslim hard-liners still protested on Oct. 14 and demanded he be punished.

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