Indonesian Muslims gather at Jakarta's National Monument Park as part of a rally against Jakarta's Christian Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known by his nickname Ahok, on Dec. 2. (Photo by AFP)
About 700,000 Muslims flocked to Jakarta on Dec. 2 to demand the Indonesian capital’s Christian Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama be arrested for blasphemy.
In what was the third and largest rally in two months, protesters, dressed in white, packed National Monument Square and the surrounding area from eight in the morning.
President Joko Widodo, Vice President Jusuf Kalla and several ministers joined the protesters for their Friday prayers.
"We gather here to answer the call of Islam and Allah," Bachtiar Nasir, a Muslim cleric who heads the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa, said at the rally.
"Today, we defend the Quran. In the future, the Quran will defend us," he added.
Azlan, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, travelled by boat to the protest. He demanded the governor, known popularly as Ahok, be jailed.
"We want all Muslims to demand the arrest of Ahok. He insulted the Quran. He must be jailed," he said.
Hendro Abu Mustafa, a member of the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, an Islamic political organization, heard that Ahok had insulted the Quran.
"So my participation in this rally is to uphold my faith and to defend what I see as something holy," he told ucanews.com.
"Perpetrators of similar cases are generally arrested. Why hasn’t Ahok been arrested yet? What is behind this?" he said.
Blasphemy allegations against Ahok surfaced in early October, after a video of a Sept. 27 speech, in which he allegedly insulted the Quran, went viral.
In the speech, the Christian governor of Chinese descent, had urged voters not to be dissuaded from supporting him because of some Quranic verses that forbid non-Muslims ruling over Muslims.
The Attorney General’s Office announced on Nov. 30 that it had approved the case against him. If found guilty Ahok could face up to five years in prison.
Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto told reporters that President Widodo thanked the protesters for being peaceful.
"The president joined in Friday prayers at the National Monument Square. In his speech, he appreciated all Muslims particularly those coming from afar that gathered here to listen to sermons and pray together," he said.
Referring to the blasphemy case, he called on people to be patient.
"Let’s be patient and wait for the legal process. I assure [you] that the government, particularly the president, will never interfere with the legal process. Let it happen fairly," he said.