Thousands of police were deployed in Indonesia's capital city of Jakarta yesterday ahead of a protest by hardline Muslim groups demanding Jakarta's Governor be jailed over comments about the koran. Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama an ethnic Chinese Christian, has faced mounting racial and religious  slurs in the campaign for February's gubernatorial election.

In frustration, the governor told a fishing community last month  - You Are - deceived by people using Al - Maidah 51, referring to a verse in the Koran that bars Muslims from electing a non Islamic leader. 

The comment has spurred a backlash as several Muslim groups called for his arrest, forcing the Governor to apologise. He said he was criticising people who abused the Koran to attack him and not the Holy book itself. But Bachtiar Nasir, one of the Muslim leaders organising the protest said the apology was not enough. Ahok's comments have hurt many Muslims. He has suggested that the verse is a lie and the people citing the verse as liars. Referring  to the Governor by his popular Chinese nickname. Fifty thousand people from all over Indonesia have signed up, not just those in Jakarta. This has nothing to do with the election. This is about the sanctity of religion.

Munarman of the hardline group Islamic Defenders Front said the rally would take place tomorrow in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta. Afterwards we will occupy the House of Representatives complex and stay there until Ahok is either arrested or the parliament impeach him, he was quoted as saying to news portal Detik.

There have been some indications that Islamic State supporters have been encouraging each other to use the November 4th rally to fan the flames of jihad across the country. This is why extremism and intolerance are growing in Indonesia because no one dares to draw a line and recognise religiously inspired incitement for what it is, let alone condemn it or take measures to stop it. Indonesia's spineless political leaders have allowed extremists to seize the moment and foment religious hatred against the Governor, Mr Jones wrote who is a Director of the Institute For Policy Analysis Of Conflict.

In the lead up to the rally, Social Media users have reported that anti - Chinese graffiti and posters had proliferated across Jakarta, leaving many fearing the sectarian tension could lead to a repeat of the anti - Chinese riot in the capital of Jakarta following the downfall of former Indonesian President Suharto in 1998. Some offices in the city of Jakarta and schools have told workers and students to stay at home tomorrow.

Police in Jakarta have called for reinforcements from the neighbouring provinces of Banten, West and Central Java. National Police deputy chief Syafruddin said yesterday that police all over the country were on alert level one ahead of the rally, adding that at least 18, 000 police and military officers would be deployed.

Indonesian political expert Ikrar Nusa Bhakti said I don't think there will be that many people at the rally maybe five thousand perhaps. A lot of the protesters would likely consist of a mob for hire from poorer areas outside of the city. About 3000 people participated in a similar rally last month despite organisers claiming tens of thousands would attend.

President of Indonesia Joko Widodo tried to ease tensions this week, holding an impromptu meeting with his former rival in the 2014 presidential race, Prabowo Subianto, whose party, is supporting the Governor's closest contender former minister and academic Anies Baswedan.

The President also invited on Tuesday of this week to the Palace leaders from three of Indonesia's  biggest and most influential Muslim organisations. The three groups have distanced themselves  from tomorrow's rally and urged Muslims to accept the Governor's apology.

Several Indonesian political parties have also told their members not to participate in tomorrow's rally in the capital city of Jakarta tomorrow.


Published by Julian Groom