Hardline Muslim groups protest over Jakarta’s ethnic Chinese governor

JAKARTA: Thousands of hardline Muslims rallied in Jakarta on Friday in protest against the city’s ethnic Chinese and Christian governor, further fuelling ethnic tensions ahead his re-election bid in February.

Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known by his nickname “Ahok”, became Jakarta’s first ethnic Chinese governor in 2014, (he is also a Christian, although many of the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia are Buddhist)  but hardline Muslims have opposed his rise to power.

Dressed in white, thousands of members of several hardline groups chanted anti-Ahok slogans surrounded by tight military and police security, but the demonstration was otherwise generally peaceful.

Ahok must be executed. According to Islamic teaching, he must be killed,” Emed Muhammad, a hardline opponent of the governor, told the cheering protesters. “Jakarta is now being governed by an infidel, but Indonesia has the biggest Muslim population.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the demonstration, Forum Umat Islam Secretary General Muhammad al Khaththath didn’t single out Purnama, but said leaders should be Muslim “because that is what the Koran calls for.”

Ahok has gained a reputation for being a tough reformer, and has recently come under attack from Muslim groups for comments about the Koran. In his controversial remarks last month, Purnama told a crowd they had been “deceived” by his opponents who used a Koranic verse to try to put them off voting for a Christian. “You are being fooled,” he said.

Purnama, Jakarta’s second Christian governor and the first from Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese community, has won huge popularity with his no-nonsense style and determination to clean up Jakarta, an overcrowded, disorganised and polluted metropolis.

But his tough-talking style, unusual for a politician in Indonesia, has alienated some and he has also faced constant opposition from hardline Islamic groups, who protested for weeks when he became governor two years ago.

The organiser of Friday’s protest, the hardline Islamic Defenders Front, is known for violent protests and attacks against minorities around the country since its creation in 1999


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