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Indonesia Protest: Violence Erupts as Thousands Rally Against Christian Gov. Ahok Over Alleged Blasphemy

Up to 50,000 protesters gathered in the streets of Jakarta, Indonesia on Friday over the alleged blasphemy of Gov. Basuki Tjahja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, who is a Christian.
Members of hardline Muslim groups attend a protest against Jakarta's incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian running in the upcoming election, in Jakarta, Indonesia, November 4, 2016.

Reuters/Beawiharta

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the streets of Jakarta, Indonesia on Friday over the alleged blasphemy of Gov. Basuki Tjahja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, who is a Christian.

Authorities estimate the crowd to be at least 50,000, making it the second biggest protest against Ahok in less than a month. In October, another protest against the Jakarta governor drew a crowd of about 10,000, which gathered at City Hall.

The government has deployed 18,000 police over concerns that radical Islamists would join the demonstration, Channel News Asia reported.

Although the rally had been mostly peaceful, violence ensued as police clashed with protesters who disobeyed instructions to disperse after nightfall. Police used tear gas and water cannon in attempts to control the angry demonstrators, BBC reported.

One man died while four civilians and three police officers were injured as a result of the clash, according to the Associated Press.

The protest was led by the Islamic Defenders Front, a group known for holding violent demonstrations, in an attempt to have Ahok prosecuted for saying allegedly insulting remarks about the Quran.

In September, Ahok spoke to a crowd and told them they are being deceived by those who are using verses from the Quran to convince them not to vote for him in the February gubernatorial election. Ahok has apologized for the statement.

"He is not Muslim but he humiliated the Koran," a protester named Muhammad Said said, according to Channel News Asia. "Don't refer to anything in the Koran, especially interpreting it incorrectly ... I call on God to jail him."

National police chief General Tito urged the public to stay calm, especially in the face of divisive statements spreading on social media that were directed against the minority Chinese, which make up 1 percent of the Indonesian population. Ahok is a Christian with a Chinese heritage.

"I appeal to everyone to stay calm. Do not be easily provoked by the social media," General Tito said in another report from Channel News Asia.

He also said there is no need for a “shoot on sight” order.

"I have spoken with the commander of the military, there is no need for such a thing. We have agreed with the commander that the police and army will work together to maintain peace in the country,” General Tito said. An additional 500 military personnel were deployed at the site.

Ahok took the governatorial seat in Jakarta in 2014, which was vacated when Joko Widodo was elected president.

The governor has built a reputation of being a tough reformer who is determined to clean up Jakarta’s streets and battle corruption in government. These traits have made him widely popular and have given him an edge on next year’s election. However, Islamic hardliners oppose him and do not want him to hold a government position because of his faith.

Tags : Indonesia protest, Ahok, Indonesia protest against Ahok