Indonesia on high alert as 'blasphemy' march dawns

Huge demo scheduled to take place in capital on Friday demanding police probe alleged blasphemy by governor of Jakarta

Indonesia on high alert as 'blasphemy' march dawns

World Bulletin / News Desk

Indonesian security forces have been placed on full alert ahead of a huge demonstration planned for Friday demanding police investigate alleged blasphemy by the governor of Jakarta.

Hundreds of buses carrying demonstrators from around the country began arriving in the capital early Thursday with police estimating around 100,000 people will take part.

Meanwhile, images of an armed Syrian militant calling for Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to be shot dead have been uploaded to the Internet, and four helicopters could be seen flying low Thursday around the presidential palace -- one of several major protest sites -- in preparation for any violence.

Jakarta Police spokesman Chief Comr. Awi Setiyono said that in addition to securing the site, about 1,800 police and army personnel will guard 27 other spots, including government offices, shopping centers, embassies, and other vital buildings

Around 500 police will also wear white skullcaps and recite Asmau Allah al-Husna (the 99 names of Allah) if the action turns anarchical.

Setiyono assured that police are not equipped with lethal weapons, and would not utilize guns, but warned demonstrators not to bring children, and be wary of provocateurs.

"We will not involve snipers. We are prioritizing persuasion and a humanistic approach, because this action is a peaceful protest," he underlined.

Protesters are demanding police punish the governor for a speech in which he allegedly publicly insulted Islam last September.

Ahok -- of Chinese descent and Christian -- is alleged to have told residents of the Jakarta regency not to be “deceived” by those using a Quranic verse, Al Maidah: 51.

On Wednesday, a member of Ahok's campaign team, Nusron Wahid, claimed none of Ahok's speech had defamed the Quran.

"What Ahok was trying to do was educate people to choose intelligently and not be easily duped by those who politicize religion," Wahid said in a written statement to Anadolu Agency.

"Ahok was focusing on anyone deceiving [using Al Maidah], not [saying that the] Al Maidah verse is a lie."

Last month, thousands of people -- most of whom were men dressed in white -- gathered at Istiqlal Mosque in central Jakarta and started to march through the city, pushing for criminal proceedings.

The Jakarta Post quoted the vice secretary general of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) as underlining that Indonesia is a country based on the rule of law.

"We want the state to show presence in this case, because the law has regulations on this [religious defamation]," said Ja'far Shodiq.

On Wednesday, an FPI spokesman said police had been slow to investigate.

"The police have to quickly deal with the case," Munarman -- many Indonesians use only one name -- told Anadolu Agency by phone, adding that around 10 parties, including the FPI, had now reported Ahok to the police.

On Thursday, the head of the criminal section of the National Police, Commissioner Gen. Ari Dono, said it was investigating the allegations, and would be examining testimony from 22 witnesses and experts, including the head of the FPI Rizieq Shihab.

"We'll see if there is a criminal element or not in this case," quoted him as telling reporters at his office.

Ahok is currently campaigning for an upcoming gubernatorial election, to which Shodiq has said the protest is not connected.

On Wednesday, the images calling for the governor to be shot alongside an image of a coffin went viral.

"We are monitoring what's happening on social media. But the photos shown are in Syria. It was part of an intelligence report, so we are taking them seriously," said Setiyono.

On Thursday, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Sidney Jones, told Anadolu Agency that the photo was created by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham -- previously known as the Nursa Front.

Hundreds of Indonesians are reported to be fighting with terror groups in Syria, 69 of whom have died.

Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla encouraged those living in the capital to do as normal Friday.

"Work as usual, those who have to go to school, go to school as usual," Widodo told reporters in the state palace.

Both asked demonstrators to express their demands in an orderly manner, and not to interfere with citizens’ activities or damage public facilities.

"Islam is rahmatan lil 'alamin, if [they make] damage it is not mercy," said Kalla, praying for Islam to bring mercy on mankind.

Last Mod: 03 Kasım 2016, 17:32
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