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Jakarta Post

Rally ends on cautious note

  • Agnes Anya, Indra Budiari, Ina Parlina and Callistasia Anggun Wijaya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, December 3, 2016   /  07:38 am
Rally ends on cautious note Protesters’ mecca: Muslims gather near the National Monument in Jakarta on Friday as they rally against Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, whom the police have named a blasphemy suspect. (Antara/Sigid Kurniawan)

Hatred against non-active Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was a sentiment evident during the peaceful rally at the National Monument (Monas) square in Central Jakarta on Friday.

Anti-Ahok slogans were continuously chanted by demonstrators and their leaders including when President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was still on stage after addressing the more than 500,000 Muslims from various Islamic organizations.

The President would have clearly heard the crowd demanding the imprisonment of his former deputy when he served as Jakarta governor from 2012 to 2014, on his way back from the venue to the State Palace.

Immediately after the President finished his brief remarks, the rally leader, Habib Rizieq Shihab, shouted fiercely in front of Jokowi, “arrest Ahok, arrest Ahok!”

“Arrest Ahok, arrest Ahok! Arrest Ahok right now!” the protesters shouted back.

Rizieq has warned the government that Muslims will take to the streets again if they are dissatisfied with how the law deals with Ahok.

The Attorney General’s Office handed over Ahok’s blasphemy case dossier to North Jakarta District Court shortly after receiving the documents from the National Police on Thursday.

Ahok has appealed for public support in getting a fair and transparent trial for his blasphemy case amid concerns about escalating pressures from Islamic organizations on judges presiding over his trial.

Like the previous Nov. 4 demonstration, Friday’s rally was initiated by the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa (GNPF-MUI) leader Rizieq. It was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. but participants started to arrive at the site as early as 5:30 a.m.

Mostly wearing white Islamic garb, they placed themselves in tidy rows as they chanted praises to God, as well as listened to sermons from several famous clerics, in the hope that their solidarity would be able to urge the government to put Ahok behind bars.

Ahok has been in the spotlight since he cited Al-Maidah 51, a verse in the Quran, in a speech to residents of Thousand Islands regency and Jakarta administration officials during a working visit on Sept. 27. Footage of the speech went viral on social media and set off a firestorm of criticism from several Muslim groups.

The governor has since apologized, saying he did not intend to insult the Quran, but it has failed to soothe the ire of many Muslim groups, who initiated a mass demonstration to demand his prosecution on Nov. 4.

The Nov. 4 demonstration started with mass Friday prayers along Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara and Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat — both in Central Jakarta — before later in the evening turning violent with three police personnel being injured.

Meanwhile, for the Dec. 2 rally, the protesters also held Friday prayers but this time at Monas square, where the huge crowd also witnessed a show of leadership confidence by Jokowi and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

Both of them left the State Palace to join the protesters in prayer amid pouring rain; a decision that came as a surprise to almost everyone as the President previously planned not to attend the rally.

“Thank you for your prayers for the safety of the country,” he said in a short speech he delivered on stage after the prayers.

However, the peaceful rally was marred by dozens of people in white attire bursting onto the stage just as thousands of participants started to disperse.

An unidentified cleric took the microphone and delivered a political speech to hundreds who were still watching nearby.

“Thank you for your presence today, but I ask you when you get home to keep in mind that not a single non-Muslim can be a leader in this country,” said one of the speakers.

“Not a district leader, not a governor or even president should be [a non-Muslim]. Pick a Muslim if you have to vote,” he said before leaving the stage with his entourage.

The rally has put added pressure on law enforcement institutions handling Ahok, who is seeking reelection in next year’s gubernatorial election, in the blasphemy case that could put him behind bars for up to five years.

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