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Thousands Gather in Jakarta To Promote Unity Amid Christian Gov. Ahok’s Blasphemy Investigation

More than 10,000 people joined the rally in Jakarta, Indonesia to promote unity and religious tolerance while police are investigating the alleged blasphemy of Christian Gov. Asuki Tjahaja Purnama, more popularly known as Ahok.
People take part in a rally against what they see as growing racial and religious intolerance in the world's largest Muslim-majority country, in Jakarta, Indonesia November 19, 2016.
Reuters/Iqro Rinaldi

More than 10,000 people joined the rally in Jakarta, Indonesia to promote unity and religious tolerance while police are investigating the alleged blasphemy of Christian Gov. Asuki Tjahaja Purnama, more popularly known as Ahok.

Religious leaders, human rights advocates and legislators were among those who joined the rally Sunday at the National Monument.

"We are gathering here not to protest but to show that we are not easily divided by religious or political issues,” Budiman Sujatmiko from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, said, according to the Associated Press.

Islamic hard-liners have accused Ahok of blasphemy, saying he insulted the Quran, and are pushing for his arrest. The police officially opened the blasphemy probe against Ahok last week.

Ahok is Jakarta’s second Christian governor since 1945 and has an ethnic Chinese background. He is generally popular with the middle class because of his firm stance in addressing corruption and stands a good chance of a re-election next year.

However, many Islamic hard-liners have campaigned against him, telling the people they should not vote for him because he is not a Muslim and citing verses from the Quran to support their negative campaign.

Ahok addressed these in one of his speeches and told the audience they are being “deceived.” He also reportedly quoted a verse from the Quran that his opponents used in one speech, which fueled the hard-liners’ anger all the more, according to the International Christian Concern.

Ahok has apologized for his comments.

There have been two protests against Ahok so far—one in October, which was joined by about 10,000 people, and a bigger one on Nov. 4, which was joined by an estimated 100,000 protesters. One person died and at least 100 people were injured when violence broke out at the Nov. 4 rally.

The rallies are led by the Islamic Defenders Front, a group known to promote the Sharia Law in Indonesia. Hard-liners are threatening to stage another major protest on Nov. 25 to call for Ahok's prosecution. It is expected to be a lot bigger than the the last one.

However, the head of the Indonesian military sternly warned there should be no more gathering of such kind, and the Nov. 4 protest should be the last. If the hard-liners would push through with its protest, the military has promised to suppress it.

"Remember, Indonesia is not only about Islam, but also Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and other beliefs," General Gatot Nurmantyo said, UCA News reported. Suspicions have arisen that the hard-liners are pushing for a different political agenda.

Some Islamic leaders called on Muslims not to take to the streets and just wait for the investigation’s results.

"Another demonstration is not necessary. It's a waste of time and energy. The police have named him [Ahok] a suspect," Din Syamsudin, chairman of Advisory Board of the Indonesian Ulema Council, said, according to UCA News.

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