Tens of thousands of Muslims have taken to the streets of Jakarta in recent days in an attempt to persuade Indonesians not to re-elect the capital city’s Christian governor, who stands accused of blasphemy.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (better known as “Ahok”) is accused of “misusing” a Qur’anic verse (which, some say, suggests Muslims should not be ruled by non-Muslims) in a speech last year. He says he was not criticising the verse itself; only those who would seek to use it against him.
The BBC reports that protesters on Saturday (11 Feb) held posters with messages such as “I’d prefer if my leader is a Muslim” and “It is forbidden to pick an infidel leader”.
As World Watch Monitor reported last month, recent evidence suggests that violations of religious freedom are on the rise in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority nation, while a report by the New York Times focuses on how Sharia by-laws are spreading across the country.
Meanwhile, Christian leaders have urged the President to take action against the Islamic Defenders Front, who were behind a set of mass rallies against Ahok late last year. They told President Joko Widodo that the organisation poses a “serious threat to national unity”. Moderate Muslim groups have also opposed the group, saying it detracts from Indonesia’s national motto of “unity in diversity”.