The Jakarta Post
After first erupting in Jakarta, anti-Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama sentiment has spread to other cities amid an extensive social media campaign against the governor, who recently made a statement that many Muslims considered had insulted the Quran.
Following an anti-Ahok rally in Jakarta on Oct. 14, Muslims staged similar protests in Surabaya, East Java, and Bandung, West Java, on Friday. Another rally is being planned in Padang, West Sumatra.
The protesters want the Jakarta governor sent to prison for an allegedly blasphemous speech made in Thousand Islands, North Jakarta, on Sept. 27.
In Surabaya, thousands of Muslims grouped under the East Java United Muslims Community Movement (GUIB) staged rallies in front of the East Java Police headquarters and East Java High Prosecutor’s Office, voicing their demands.
Representing 70 Muslim organizations, the protestors urged the police to arrest and question Ahok for insulting the Quran.
“Arrest and jail Ahok, the man who insults the Quran,” East Java GUIB secretary-general Muhammad Yunus said in a speech.
Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) spokesperson Ismail Yusanto expressed a similar sentiment, urging the government to take stern action against Ahok for blasphemy.
“Ahok consciously said that people who do not vote for him because of Surah Al-Maidah 51 had been lied to. This means that he consciously called the Quran a source of lies,” Ismail stated.
The issue began when Ahok spoke in front of Thousand Islands residents and Jakarta administration officials about voting rights. The governor related the issue to Surah Al-Maidah 51, which many Muslims perceive as prohibiting them from voting for non-Muslim leaders.
“In your hearts, Bapak and Ibu may not vote for me because [you have been] lied to by Surah al-Maidah, verse 51, etc. It is your right. So you do not need to feel uneasy if you cannot vote for me because you are afraid of being condemned to hell, as you are being fooled. It is alright,” Ahok said.
Ahok has apologized for the statement, which many Muslims found offensive.
In Bandung, a number of schools sent students home early in anticipation of traffic congestion because of a rally staged by the Alliance of West Java Muslim Movements, demanding Ahok’s arrest.
The rally began after Friday prayers at 1 p.m. local time in front of Gedung Sate. The group then marched to the Merdeka Building. At least 1,000 people joined the peaceful rally, which caused traffic jams on a number of thoroughfares.
Coordinator of the alliance, Asep Syarifudin, said the rally represented the struggle of the entire Muslim community in West Java.
“We demand a legal process for Ahok regarding the religious blasphemy he committed. His statement has insulted the Quran, ulema and Muslims,” he said.
Separately, Muslim Reformist Movement chairman Cep Hermawan said his side would stage a bigger rally at Jakarta’s City Hall if the police failed to act against Ahok by Oct. 28.
“Unless he is [legally] processed, on Nov. 4 we will surround the Jakarta Legislative Council building and City Hall. If Ahok is not punished, we will punish him,” he said.
In Padang, West Sumatra, 48 Muslim mass organizations grouped under the Minangkabau Community Forum plan to stage a rally on Sunday. They called for Ahok’s arrest via posters circulated on social media in the name of the Indonesian Ulema Council’s (MUI) West Sumatra branch and the mass organizations.
According to the announcement, the rally will start at 8 a.m. at Nurul Iman Mosque in Padang, before moving to the West Sumatra Police headquarters on Jl. Sudirman.
The announcement also mentioned that the decision to hold the rally was reached during a meeting with local MUI chairman Buya Gusrizal Gazahar. Until Friday afternoon, however, Gusrizal was not available for comment.
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