Indonesian Islamic hardliners protest Christian Governor

Triggered by accusations Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, insulted Islam

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Thousands of Muslim hardliners protested in Jakarta Friday demanding the Indonesian capital’s Christian governor be executed for allegedly insulting Islam, as he faces an increasingly tight election race.

About 10,000 demonstrators wearing white Islamic robes and skullcaps rallied outside city hall in the capital of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, waving banners that read: “The blasphemer must be prosecuted”.

The protest was triggered by accusations Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, insulted Islam by criticising opponents who used Koranic references to attack him ahead of the February polls.

“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.”

Hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed around city hall to ensure the rally did not get out of hand.

In his controversial remarks last month, Purnama told a crowd they had been “deceived” by his opponents who used a Quranic 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.

Purnama still remains the favourite to win the election but the race has heated up in recent weeks with two other candidates, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and a popular ex-education minister, declaring they will run.

He became Jakarta governor in November, 2014, but was not elected to the post. He was deputy governor and automatically became governor after incumbent Joko Widodo was elected Indonesian president.

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