Posts Tagged ‘President Joko Widodo’

Thousands of Indonesians Hold Anti-Communist Protest in Capital — “President Joko Widodo is the son of communists and was not a Muslim”

September 29, 2017

JAKARTA — Several thousand protesters led by hardline Islamist groups held a rally on Friday outside Indonesia’s parliament to protest against what they called a growing threat from communism in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Rows of police stood behind barbed wire with water cannons at the ready, but the rally was peaceful and the number of protesters far smaller than the estimated tens of thousands expected by organisers and police.

Some protesters prayed and unfurled banners rejecting communism and also a government decree targeting large organisations that was used to disband the Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia.

“The country is giving space to communists and their activities,” said one protester, Mohamad Khairudin, 42, who had travelled from Surabaya, the country’s second largest city.

“Members of parliament have communist sympathies. And at the same time they are limiting space for Islamic organisations and criminalising ulama (scholars).”

 Image result for Protest in Jakarta, anti-communist, September 29, 2017, photos

Khairudin said he tended to believe reports on social media that President Joko Widodo was the son of communists and was not a Muslim, but did not provide any evidence of this or of a rise in communism.

Widodo has denied having any communist ties.

Communism remains an emotive issue in Indonesia and the protest took place on the eve of the 52nd anniversary of the murder of six army generals and a young lieutenant by rebel armed forces personnel, which prompted the retaliatory slaughter of at least 500,000 alleged communists.

The massacres ushered in more than 30 years of authoritarian rule under Suharto, the former general who led the communist purge.

 20,000 security personnel guard anti-communist rally in Jakarta

Indonesia’s Communist Party (PKI), once one of the world’s largest, remains outlawed, however, and there appears to be little evidence of a Marxist ideology taking hold in Indonesia.

Just 12 percent of respondents to a September survey of 1,220 Indonesians believed the party was making a comeback now.

Analysts and government advisers said the fomenting of a “red scare” was aimed at Indonesia’s reformist president Widodo, who has previously been falsely accused of being the descendant of communists.

Related image

“We support parliament in ridding itself of PKI,” Slamet Maarif, one of the rally organisers told the crowd, accusing the government of oppressive measures and of creating a gulf between the state and Islam with a decree banning some organisations.

Friday’s rally has been organised by hardline Islamist groups, such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

The FPI led huge rallies last year that successfully demanded the jailing for blasphemy of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian who was Jakarta’s governor at the time.

(Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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Military personnel raid cafe in South Jakarta suspected of harboring communist sympathies

  • The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, September 29, 2017 | 01:14 pm

Military personnel raid cafe in South Jakarta suspected of harboring communist sympathies A South Jakarta 0504 Military District personnel is seen with the confiscated red flag at the Garasi 66 cafe in South Jakarta on Thursday. (Courtesy of Kodim 0504 Jakarta Selatan/File)

Military personnel have confiscated a flag marked with the hammer and sickle logo, the symbol of communism, from a cafe in South Jakarta.

Nearby residents reported the flag to the authorities, South Jakarta 0504 Military District commander Let. Col. Inf. Ade Rony Wijaya said on Friday.

“We took the flag away on Thursday. The logo was small and placed in red fabric,” Ade said as quoted by kompas.com.

The military cooperated with Public Order Agency personnel, the head of the neighborhood unit (RT) and some members of local youth organization Karang Taruna in the raid on the Garasi 66 cafe on Jl. Pangeran Antasari.

The banner was found installed at the window in the room of the cafe’s owner, Burdani, who is being investigated by military officers.

“We see no specific intent. Burdani travels a lot to many countries. He thought it was the flag of China,” Ade said.

Burdani was released after his identity was recorded by officers.

The issue of a communist revival in the country is in the spotlight once more.

Hundreds of anti-communists besieged the office of the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) on Sept. 17, accusing the organization of putting on a gathering associated with the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party. (yon)

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Statue of Chinese god stokes tension in Muslim-majority Indonesia

August 11, 2017

Reuters

TUBAN, Indonesia (Reuters) – Indonesia has urged officials to stand up to mob pressure after Muslim and nationalist protesters called for a 30-metre-tall (100-ft-) statue of a Chinese deity erected in a temple complex in an East Java town to be torn down.

The brightly-painted statue of Guan Yu, a former general who is worshipped by some Chinese, was inaugurated in July in a temple complex in the fishing town of Tuban and is claimed to be Southeast Asia’s tallest such representation of the deity.

The statue in Tuban, about 100 km (60 miles) west of the city of Surabaya, has been partially covered up after the protests, provoking both praise and ridicule on social media in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

“If they ask for the statue to be torn down, authorities cannot bow to such pressure,” Teten Masduki, chief of staff to President Joko Widodo, told reporters.

Protesters demonstrated this week outside Surabaya’s parliament against the statue, some wearing paramilitary-style outfits and waving placards that read “Demolish It” and “We are not worshippers of idols”.

Allowing a depiction of a foreign general was “a symbol of treason to this nation,” an unnamed protester said in a video of the rally on news portal Kompas.com.

Officials of the Kwan Sing Bio Temple in Tuban declined to comment, but media have quoted residents as saying the statue was good for tourism.

Indonesia is a secular state whose constitution enshrines religious freedom and diversity, but there are concerns that rising intolerance threatens its reputation for moderate Islam.

Muslims form about 85 percent of the population, but there are also substantial Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and other minorities.

Religious tension has soared this year after Islamist-led rallies saw Jakarta’s incumbent governor, a member of a so-called double minority who is ethnic Chinese and Christian, put on trial during city elections over Koran insult allegations.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was later jailed for two years for blasphemy, a sentence rights groups and international bodies condemned as unfair and politicized.

The protests against the statue were primarily about nationalism, said Suli Da’im, a lawmaker in East Java.

“What they were protesting about is that the statue did not represent their general or commander,” he said, adding that a permit for the statue had also not yet been approved.

The fate of the statue, reported to have cost 2.5 billion rupiah ($190,000) to build, has sparked sparring on social media.

“Praise be to God, the noisy fighting in social media succeeded in ensuring the idolatrous statue has been covered. I hope it will soon be taken down,” Muhammad Syahrir, using the handle @Muhamma37029013, said on social network Twitter.

Another Twitter user ridiculed the protesters.

“Like they have nothing else to do but to protest against a statue,” said Paring Waluyo, under the handle @paringwaluyo. “Instead they should be protesting about Tuban being among the poor regencies of East Java.”

($1=13,368.0000 rupiah)

Additional reporting by Stefanno Reinard and Gayatri Suroyo in Jakarta; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

See also:

In Indonesia, Chinese Deity Is Covered in Sheet After Muslims Protest

Indonesia probes ‘IS-linked’ suicide attack on police — Philippine Police chief beheaded, President Declares Martial Law — Philippine troops enter Marawi

May 25, 2017

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JAKARTA: Indonesia’s elite anti-terror squad was on Thursday (May 25) investigating a suicide bombing near a Jakarta bus station that killed three policemen in an assault authorities believe is linked to the Islamic State group.

President Joko Widodo appealed for calm after two suicide attackers unleashed carnage outside the busy terminal late Wednesday, sending huge clouds of black smoke into the sky and panicked people fleeing.

Three policemen were killed, while six other officers and five civilians were injured in an assault that left body parts and shattered glass strewn across the road. The bombers also died.

Police said they believed there was a link between the attackers and the Islamic State (IS) group, without giving further details. Hundreds of Indonesians have flocked abroad to fight with the militants and IS-supporting militants have been behind a series of recent plots and attacks in the archipelago.

The bus station bombing was the deadliest attack in Indonesia since January 2016, when a suicide blast and gun assault claimed by IS in downtown Jakarta left four attackers and four civilians dead.

In a televised address on Thursday, Widodo said he had ordered a thorough probe and was “urging all citizens across the nation to stay calm and remain united”.

“I convey my deepest condolences to the victims and their families – especially the police officers who passed away while performing their duty,” he added.

© AFP | Indonesian police guard a checkpoint in Jakarta

The main investigation was handed over early on Thursday to the police’s elite anti-terror squad Densus 88, which has played a leading role in tracking down and killing some of Indonesia’s most wanted militants.

Police believe they were specifically targeted in the bombing as they prepared to provide security for a parade near the Kampung Melayu terminal, which is an area frequented by locals but not foreigners.

Security forces have been the main target in recent years of Indonesian militants, who have largely turned their attention away from Westerners.

Asked whether there was a link between IS and the group behind the attack, national police spokesman Awi Setyono responded “yes there is”, without giving further details.

Police have not yet named the two dead suspects but a law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to Reuters, said they may have been linked to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an umbrella organisation on a US State Department “terrorist” list that is estimated to have drawn hundreds of IS sympathisers in Indonesia.

PRESSURE COOKER BOMBS

Wasisto would not be drawn on which group could be behind the attack, but he confirmed the bombs were made out of pressure cookers. Authorities said along with body parts, they found explosive materials, switchers, an identity card and a receipt for a cooking pot.

A pressure cooker bomb was used in an attack in the city of Bandung in February carried out by a militant from JAD, which has been blamed for a string of recent assaults.

In a media briefing on Thursday afternoon, a police spokesman said that the double bomb blasts in the Indonesian capital bears similarity with the Bandung bombing on Feb 27.

In that incident, an attacker set off an improvised bomb made from a pressure cooker in a park, before fleeing. No one was injured in the blast. The alleged attacker then died in a gunfight with security forces the following day.

Another police spokesman, Setyo Wasisto, added terror cells “might have been inspired to carry out an attack” by recent assaults in Britain and the Philippines.

Twenty-two people, including children, were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a pop concert in Manchester on Monday. In the Philippines, troops are locked in intense battles with militants who rampaged through the mainly Muslim city of Marawi.

Police said the first bomb in the latest Jakarta attack was detonated at 9pm (1400 GMT) in an area where police officers were on duty. Five minutes later the second bomber struck about 10 metres (32 feet) away.

Local media said the event that the officers were preparing to guard was a torch parade traditionally held before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend. he Kampung Melayu terminal is a local hub served by minibuses and buses.

Indonesia has long struggled with Islamic militancy and has suffered a series of attacks in the past 15 years, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

A sustained crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks but the emergence of IS has proved a potent new rallying cry for radicals.

Source: CNA/Agencies/rw
Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/indonesia-probes-is-linked-suicide-attack-on-police-8881932

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Philippines troops enter Marawi as insurgents take hostages, raise Islamic State flag

Philippines government troops crouch on the ground and prepare to fire their weapons.

Gunfire and explosions have rung out as army tanks packed with soldiers rolled into the southern Philippine city of Marawi in an effort to repel Islamist insurgents.

Key points:

  • Militants seized more than a dozen hostages and raised ISIS flag
  • Duterte warned he would expand martial law to the rest of the country
  • At least 21 people killed and thousands have evacuated the city

The soldiers made their advance after militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) group torched buildings, seized more than a dozen Catholic hostages and raised the black flag of IS.

At least 21 people have died in fighting that erupted late on Tuesday, when the army raided the Marawi hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington’s list of most wanted terrorists and has a $6.67 million bounty on his head.

The operation was not a success as the militants called in reinforcements and swept through the mostly Muslim city of 200,000 people.

Hapilon’s whereabouts was not clear and there was no indication he was captured in the raid.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the southern third of the nation — home to some 22 million people — and warned he may expand it nationwide.

Mr Duterte vowed to be “harsh”.

“If I think that you should die, you will die,” he said on Wednesday.

“If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it.”

A line of packed cars drives up the road out of Marawi City.

The growing influence of ISIS

As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from the ISIS group in Syria and Iraq.

Thousands of people were fleeing the city on Thursday, jamming their belongings into cars.

Plumes of black smoke rose in the distance and two air force helicopters could be seen flying over the city centre.

Who are the Maute?

  • The Maute group an armed Muslim group that’s pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
  • Hapilon was reportedly designated the leader of the alliance.
  • The Maute has been blamed for a bomb attack that killed 15 people in southern Davao city, Duterte’s hometown, last September.
  • Last month, troops killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur’s Piagapo town.
  • Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp, the military said.

Although much of the city is sealed off, disturbing details were trickling out.

Mr Duterte said a local police chief was stopped at a militant checkpoint and beheaded.

Military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano said the militants erected IS flags at several locations.

Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena said the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a Catholic priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers.

Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking Islamic preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults, pledged allegiance to IS in 2014.

He is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and was wounded by a military airstrike in January.

While pursuing peace talks with two large Muslim rebel groups in the south, Mr Duterte has ordered the military to destroy smaller extremist groups which have tried to align with the IS group.

At least one of those smaller groups, the Maute, was involved in the Marawi siege.

It is one of less than a dozen new armed Muslim groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS and formed a loose alliance, with Hapilon reportedly designated as the alliance’s leader.

On Wednesday, Mr Duterte met with Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, where they discussed the crisis in the Philippines.

Mr Duterte asked Mr Putin about the possibility of buying guns from Russia, as a planned shipment of 26,000 rifles from the US had been halted last November.

“The arms we ordered from America [was] cancelled,” Mr Duterte said.

“I’m having a problem with ISIS, there’s a rebellion.”

After the US backed out of the deal Mr Duterte labelled those behind the decision “fools” and “monkeys” and indicated that he might accept weapons from Russia and China.

“Russia, they are inviting us. China also. China is open, anything you want, they sent me brochure saying we select there, we’ll give you,” he said in November.

“But I am holding off because I was asking the military if they have any problem. Because if you have, if you want to stick to America, fine.

“But, look closely and balance the situation, they are rude to us.”

ABC/wires

Topics: world-politics, terrorism, unrest-conflict-and-war, philippines, asia, russian-federation, united-states

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-25/philippines-marawi-isis-duterte-putin/8559082

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 (with links to related reports)

Indonesia faces calls to repeal blasphemy laws after jailing of Jakarta governor Ahok

May 10, 2017

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Supporters of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, gather at city hall in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 10, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia is facing renewed calls to repeal its controversial blasphemy law after the jailing of Jakarta’s Christian governor, with critics pointing to a sharp increase in its use to target minorities.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – known by his nickname Ahok – was jailed for two years on Tuesday (May 9) for blasphemy over comments he made about Islam while campaigning for re-election to the capital of the Muslim-majority nation, a far harsher sentence than had been expected.

Critics viewed the case as unfair and politically motivated. The allegations were pushed by hardliners who opposed a non-Muslim as governor, and sparked a series of mass protests that dented Basuki’s popularity and contributed to him losing the race for the Jakarta governorship to a Muslim rival last month.

The allegations against Basuki centred on a lighthearted remark he made about his rivals using a verse from the Quran to trick people into voting against him, which judges ruled amounted to blasphemy against Islam.

The blasphemy legislation has been on the statute books since 1965 but was rarely used before 1998, when three decades of authoritarian rule under brutal dictator Suharto – who sought to run the country along largely secular lines – came to an end.

His downfall brought with it new democratic freedoms and increased interest in more conservative forms of Islam. But it also gave space for the growth of hardline Muslim groups and an increase in attacks on religious minorities, fuelling concerns that the country’s inclusive brand of Islam was under threat.

Activists say the growing use of the blasphemy law curbs free speech and is one example of minorities coming under increased pressure. Local rights group the Setara Institute said of the 97 blasphemy cases brought to court since the law was enacted, 89 of them were since 1998.

‘INHERENT INJUSTICE’

Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, said Basuki’s conviction made him “exhibit A of the law’s danger and the urgent need for its repeal”.

“The blasphemy law has been used to prosecute and imprison members of religious minorities and traditional religions,” he said.

Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s director for South-east Asia and the Pacific, criticised the “inherent injustice of Indonesia’s blasphemy law, which should be repealed immediately”, while the United Nations urged a review of the legislation.

A recent case was the jailing in March of three leaders of a banned sect called Gafatar under the blasphemy law, with the men accused of luring followers to practise a deviant brand of Islam.

Another example was in 2012 when Tajul Muluk, a cleric from the Shi’ite Muslim minority, was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy, with judges saying that his teachings deviated from mainstream Islam.

The blasphemy law states that anyone found guilty of “expressing feelings of hostility” towards religion can be jailed for up to five years. It applies to any of the six officially recognised religions in Indonesia but in reality most prosecutions are brought against people accused of blaspheming Islam.

About 90 per cent of Indonesia’s 255 million people are Muslim but most practise a moderate form of Islam and the country is also home to substantial minorities of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

Despite growing pressure to repeal the law, this seems unlikely to be any time soon.

Religious affairs ministry spokesman Matsuki, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, conceded there were concerns of misuse but said the government wanted to improve the legislation rather than axe it.

“If we abolished it, more problems would arise,” he told AFP. “If blasphemy happens and we have no guidelines, there will be chaos.”

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Jakarta’s Christian governor jailed for two years for blasphemy against Islam — Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch described the verdict as “a huge setback” for Indonesia’s record of tolerance and for minorities

May 9, 2017

Reuters

Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, speaks to his lawyers after the guilty verdict in his blasphemy trial in Jakarta on May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Bay Ismoyo/Pool
By Fergus Jensen | JAKARTA

Jakarta’s Christian governor was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy against Islam on Tuesday, a harsher than expected ruling in a trial that was seen as a test of religious tolerance in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

The guilty verdict comes amid concern about the growing influence of Islamist groups, who organized mass demonstrations during a tumultuous election campaign that ended with Basuki Tjahaja Purnama losing his bid for another term as governor.

President Joko Widodo was an ally of Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian who is popularly known as “Ahok”, and the verdict will be a blow to a government that has sought to quell radical groups and soothe investors’ concerns that the country’s secular values were at risk.

As thousands of supporters and opponents waited outside, the head judge of the south Jakarta court, Dwiarso Budi Santiarto, said Purnama was “found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment”.

Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch described the verdict as “a huge setback” for Indonesia’s record of tolerance and for minorities.

“If someone like Ahok, the governor of the capital, backed by the country’s largest political party, ally of the president, can be jailed on groundless accusations, what will others do?,”

SUPPORTERS SHOCKED

Thousands of police were deployed in the capital early on Tuesday in case clashes broke out, but there was no immediate sign of any violence after the court’s verdict.

Purnama told the court he would appeal the ruling.

There was shock among his supporters outside the court and some wept openly.

Prosecutors had called for a suspended one-year jail sentence on charges of hate speech. The maximum sentence is four years in prison for hate speech and five years for blasphemy.

Hardline Islamist groups had called for the maximum penalty possible over comments by Purnama that they said were insulting to the Islamic holy book, the Koran.

Purnama denied wrongdoing, though he apologized for comments he made last year criticizing his opponents’ use of the Koran in political campaigning ahead of the election for governor.

Purnama lost his bid for re-election to a Muslim rival, Anies Baswedan, in an April run-off – after the most divisive and religiously charged election in recent years. He will hand over to Baswedan in October.

Analysts say the radical Islamist groups that organized mass protests against Purnama had a decisive impact on the outcome of the election.

Rights group fear they are in the ascendant in a country where most Muslims practise a moderate form of Islam and which is home to sizeable communities of Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, and people who adhere to traditional beliefs.

The government has been criticized for not doing enough to protect religious minorities but Widodo had urged restraint over the trial and called for all sides to respect the legal process.

Image result for Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia, photos

Hizbut-Tahrir Caliphascists

His government said on Monday it would take legal steps to disband Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), a group that seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate, because its activities were creating social tensions and threatening security.

(Additional reporting by Gayatri Suroyo, Darren Whiteside, and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by SImon Cameron-Moore)

Image result for Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia, photos

Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI)

Indonesia: Religious tensions in Jakarta poll race

February 12, 2017

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Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, candidate for Jakarta governor and son of former Indonesia president Susilo Bambang. Reuters photo
.

Financial Times (FT)

FEBRUARY 11, 2017

By Ben Bland in Jakarta

Indonesian army major Agus Yudhoyono was training with his men in Australia last September when he got the call he says he had long been groomed.

 

It was his father, former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, phoning to say it was time to quit the army, enter politics and lead their dynasty forward.

Propelled by his father’s support, the 38-year-old political novice and Harvard graduate is the frontrunner in Wednesday’s election for Jakarta governor, one of Indonesia’s most powerful political offices. With a budget bigger than those of many ministries and carrying wide powers, the job is seen as a potential stepping stone to the presidency of Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

“I was shocked because I never thought I’d leave the army so soon,” Mr Yudhoyono tells the Financial Times as he sips coffee after a morning campaigning in the capital of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. “But I’m grateful to have a mentor like my father.”

Mr Yudhoyono has been helped to the top of the polls by his father’s skill in exploiting the woes of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the incumbent governor. A member of Indonesia’s minority ethnic Chinese community and a Christian, Mr Purnama is on trial for insulting Islam.

The former president, who led the country from 2004 to 2014, was at the forefront of calls for Mr Purnama to be prosecuted after the governor suggested in a speech in September that voters were being deceived by hardliners, who had cited a Koranic verse as evidence that they should not vote for a non-Muslim. Mr Purnama, seen as short-tempered but hard-working, had been the overwhelming favourite to win re-election. But his popularity, already eroded by his ruthless evictions of slum-dwellers in a drive to overhaul the dilapidated capital, has sunk since he was charged with blasphemy in November

Related article Indonesia: A nation’s tolerance on trial Religious and ethnic tensions on the rise as Jakarta governor fights blasphemy charge Mr Yudhoyono, who is backed by a coalition between several Islamic parties and his father’s Democrat party, and Anies Baswedan, an Islamic intellectual and rival election candidate, believe they have a good chance of ousting Mr Purnama.

The election is about much more than winning a mandate to clean up fetid canals and manage crippling traffic congestion in this chaotic city of 10m people, where luxury apartments nestle alongside sprawling slums.

The previous incumbent was Joko Widodo, who was elected president in 2014 after just two years in the job. Mr Yudhoyono’s supporters hope he can emulate Mr Widodo’s rapid rise, using the Jakarta governorship as a springboard to challenge the president in the 2019 presidential election. Similarly, Prabowo Subianto, Mr Widodo’s rival in the 2014 presidential race and Mr Baswedan’s main backer, believes a victory for his man will boost his own chances in 2019.

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Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo delivers a speech in front of parliament. Barcroft Images

Mr Baswedan has turned sharply against Mr Widodo since the president sacked him as education minister in July. He has attacked the president’s nuts and bolts approach of pursuing economic development project-by-project rather than by presenting a grand vision, and his “work, work, work” slogan.

“In the last few years, we don’t appreciate the importance of ideas and words, only action,” he says. The blend of racial and religious divisions, a controversial trial and the involvement of political heavyweights has made for a heated campaign — and one which has boosted once-marginal radical Islamist groups.

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Thousands of people clash with anti-riot police during a rally demanding Jakarta’s Christian governor resign. Photograph by Jefta Images – Barcroft Images

Islamists drew hundreds of thousands to two rallies against Mr Purnama in Jakarta at the end of last year, and Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, spiritual leader of the Islam Defenders Front, a small hardline group with a violent history, has gone from being a fringe figure to dominating the headlines.

“Jakarta has become so polarised because those behind Mr Purnama have been painted as anti-Islam,” says Charlotte Setijadi, research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “It’s not just about religion and ethnicity, this is part of greater political power play. But it’s a dangerous precedent for the future of pluralism in Indonesia.”

If no candidate gets more than 50 per cent of the vote on Wednesday, an outcome most pollsters think highly likely in a three-horse race, the top two candidates will face a run-off in April. Mr Purnama’s prospects look weak. Even if he makes it through to the second round, analysts such as Ms Setijadi believe that Muslim voters will unite behind his opponent. In the unlikely event that he wins, Mr Purnama could face a prison sentence of up to five years if found guilty of blasphemy.

Mr Yudhoyono denies that he and his father have stirred the pot of religious hatred, insisting that Mr Purnama is to blame for upsetting voters because of his comments about the Koran and the slum evictions. The former military officer, who served in Indonesia’s Aceh province in 2002 during the long-running civil war and has a masters degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, is pitching himself as a soldier-scholar with the empathy for ordinary people that the abrasive Mr Purnama lacks.

“Evictions will increase poverty, frustration and trauma,” he says. “I’m here to defend people’s rights, especially marginalised people. They want a figure with the human touch.”

https://www.ft.com/content/0fe48212-eec8-11e6-930f-061b01e23655

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Indonesians Ready For Election: “This election can determine the trajectory of future Indonesian politics…whether we will see an ugly future, where religion and ethnicity is further politicized for gains.”

February 12, 2017

JAKARTA — Tens of millions of Indonesians head to the polls on Wednesday in local elections across the Muslim-majority country, with bitter feuding over the powerful post of Jakarta governor stoking political and religious tensions.

Incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta’s first ethnic Chinese and Christian leader, has angered some Muslim voters for allegedly insulting the Koran. He has denied wrongdoing, but is on trial for blasphemy in a case that rights groups and his supporters view as politically motivated.

Purnama is backed by President Joko Widodo’s party and is running against Agus Yudhoyono, the son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and ex-education minister Anies Baswedan. The two Muslim candidates appear to have won over much of the conservative Islamic vote and some Purnama supporters.

“In terms of performance, I support Ahok,” said Ferdi Ramadhan, 20, referring to Purnama’s nickname.

 “However, there’s the consideration of religion. I’m a Muslim…so I think I will vote for Anies Baswedan,” he said, after participating in a skate-boarding contest park at a park in the capital. It was built under Purnama’s administration on the site of a former red-light district.

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Members of hardline Muslim groups in Indonesia with a big national flag at a protest late last year against Jakarta Governor Basuki, who is seeking re-election. PHOTO: REUTERS

.

Purnama has been popular among the middle classes for cutting red tape in the traffic-clogged city and pushing through infrastructure projects, such as constructing defences against sea water intrusion.

But the forced evictions of slum dwellers from their riverbank homes to ease chronic flooding in the city have also angered many mainly Muslim residents.

Muslims make up around 85 percent of the city’s population, which also has sizeable Christian and other minorities.

The divisions have played out among communities, families and friends – much of it on social media and exacerbated by “fake news” stories – echoing the rifts seen in Britain over Brexit and the United States over the election of President Donald Trump.

“I personally am sick of arguing about these candidates and would like to just move on. It puts a lot of strain on friendships,” said Sari Ekaputri, a 38-year old marketing executive who lives in Jakarta.

CLOSE RACE

Jakarta police will deploy 16,000 officers ahead of voting day as concerns remain about hardline Muslim groups trying to hold similar rallies to the mass protests seen late last year calling for the jailing of Purnama.

Police banned a rally that was being planned by Islamist groups on Feb. 11, citing security concerns.

Despite the blasphemy allegations, Purnama has rebounded in opinion polls to remain a frontrunner. Even if he is convicted, he is legally allowed to run the city as long as appeals are under way, according to analysts.

Jakarta’s poll is one of scores of regional elections due to be held in other provinces, cities, and districts throughout Indonesia.

But nowhere are the stakes quite as high as in Jakarta.

Winning Jakarta can be a stepping stone to the presidency and Wednesday’s vote is widely being seen as a proxy ahead of the 2019 presidential, explaining how intense the campaigning has been.

“This election can determine the trajectory of future Indonesian politics…whether we will see an ugly future, where religion and ethnicity is further politicized for gains,” said Tobias Basuki, a political analyst at a Jakarta-based think tank.

(Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Zahra Matarani; Editing by Ed Davies and Bill Tarrant)

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Chinese-Indonesian Governor’s Struggles Worry Some in His Ethnic Group

JAKARTA, Indonesia — It was Chinese New Year, which at Ryan Gozali’s household usually involves eating an elaborate banquet while younger relatives are nagged about when they’re getting married.

But Mr. Gozali, 33 years old and unmarried, was off the hook this year. The family instead spent New Year’s glued to the television, watching Basuki Purnama, Jakarta’s ethnically Chinese governor, debating his opponents ahead of the election on Wednesday.

When Mr. Basuki landed a jab at an opponent who had accused him of disrespecting Islam, the family let out a cheer.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/11/world/asia/chinese-indonesian-governor-jakarta-basuki-purnama.html?&moduleDetail=section-news-0&action=click&contentCollection=Asia%20Pacific&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&pgtype=article

Leaders of Indionesia, Japan Forge Plans For Rail Lines, Port Development, Infrastructure and Energy Projects

January 15, 2017

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inspect the honour guards during a welcoming ceremony at the Bogor Palace, West Java, Indonesia January 15, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta
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Reuters
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By Heru Asprihanto and Eveline Danubrata | BOGOR, INDONESIA

Indonesia and Japan have agreed to step up maritime security and start discussions on a major railway project to link the Southeast Asian nation’s capital and second-biggest city, the leaders of both countries said on Sunday.

Japan has historically been one of Indonesia’s biggest investors, but was dealt a blow in 2015 when President Joko Widodo’s government awarded China a high-speed train project linking Jakarta with the city of Bandung in West Java.

Tensions around railway deals seemed to have eased on Sunday, when Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after meeting Widodo in Bogor, south of Jakarta, that Japan will cooperate with Indonesia to build infrastructure in the railway and other sectors.

The two leaders also discussed North Korea, with Abe saying its development of nuclear capability and missiles has reached “a new level of threat”.

North Korea said last week it can test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at any time from any location set by leader Kim Jong Un, adding the United States’ hostile policy was to blame for its arms development.

On South China Sea, Abe said that Japan asserts the importance of the principle of upholding the law and solving a dispute peacefully.

“The issue of South China Sea has drawn the attention of the international community and directly affects the peace in the region,” Abe said.

Maritime security cooperation is of utmost importance for fellow maritime nations, Japan and Indonesia, he said.

“Japan will actively encourage cooperation in maritime security and the development of the remote islands in Indonesia.”

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the sea.

 

While Indonesia is not part of the dispute over claims in the South China Sea, it objects to China’s claim to waters around the Natuna Islands.

RAILWAY WARS

At an estimated cost of $5.5 billion, the Jakarta-Bandung line was seen in 2015 as a coup for China, which is vying for influence in the region under its “One Belt, One Road” policy and has ambitions to be a global train supplier.

The roughly 600-km (400-mile) Jakarta-Surabaya project is likely to cost less than the Jakarta-Bandung rail as the speed of the trains is slower and most of the land has been secured, according to Indonesia’s transport minister.

The minister told Reuters in October that the government had invited Japan to work on the Jakarta-Surabaya project, which is aimed at slashing journey times between the capital and the East Java city by more than half to around five hours.

Japan and Indonesia also plan to develop the Masela gas block in Indonesia’s Maluku Province and Patimban port in West Java, Widodo said on Sunday.

On other regional issues, Abe said North Korea’s kidnapping of Japanese citizens is a very important challenge for his administration to resolve.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens decades ago. Abe has made resolving the emotive issue a signature pledge of his political career.

(Reporting by Jakarta newsroom and Heru Asprihanto; Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Eveline Danubrata; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

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Hard-Line Islamists Capture Spotlight in Indonesia

December 25, 2016

Islamist activists use blasphemy case to galvanize population in world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation

Members of the Islamic Defenders Front protested the use of Christmas accessories for Muslim workers in Surabaya recently.
Members of the Islamic Defenders Front protested the use of Christmas accessories for Muslim workers in Surabaya recently. PHOTO:ROBERTUS PUDYANTO/NURPHOTO VIA ZUMA PRESS
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Dec. 25, 2016 7:00 a.m. ET

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Mainstream Muslims here used to dismiss the Islamic Defenders Front as a fringe group—moralist thugs who attacked bars serving alcohol during Ramadan or threatened “sinful” events such as a Lady Gaga concert.

But in recent weeks, the organization has captured center stage, sidelining moderate religious groups as it whips up public fury in mass demonstrations against Jakarta’s Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama for allegedly insulting the Quran.

“We are in the forefront because we are used to holding rallies,” said Novel Bamukmin, a leader of the Front, known as FPI. “We are trusted.”

Hard-line Islamists have put the government on the defensive in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, a place where religious moderation has long held sway.

In the nearly 20 years since Indonesia has moved from autocratic rule to democracy, groups like the FPI have also gained more prominence, learning to tap populist sentiment and shift the political discourse.

Islamists have spearheaded laws in recent years to curb pornography and alcohol sales for example. A darker side also has emerged: vigilante groups have grown more emboldened in attacking religious and sexual minorities, rights groups say.

The FPI has galvanized opposition to Mr. Purnama, who is running for re-election, saying that a non-Muslim should not govern Muslims. The organization seeks his conviction on blasphemy. Two FPI-led rallies in Jakarta each drew hundreds of thousands of people, despite admonitions by officials and mainstream Muslim leaders to stay away.

Mr. Basuki denies accusations of blasphemy stemming from his citation of a Quranic verse during a public address in September. He has apologized and is currently fighting blasphemy charges in court.

Groups like the FPI have capitalized on the case to boost their street credentials. By tapping into anger at Mr. Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian whose brash manner and attempts to overhaul the bureaucracy have earned him enemies, they have united moderates and conservatives and exploited divisions in mainstream Muslim groups, rights activists say.

“They use Islam to justify their anger,” said Yahya Cholil Staquf, a secretary-general of Nathdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest mainstream Islamic organization, adding that the mass rallies were “a big score” for hard-line Islamists.

Fans of Lady Gaga protested the cancellation of the pop star's concert in Jakarta in 2012.
Fans of Lady Gaga protested the cancellation of the pop star’s concert in Jakarta in 2012. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Mr. Staquf said his group, which claims 90 million followers, plans to boost outreach to teach respect for equal rights among other religions and gays and lesbians, while maintaining its stance against same-sex marriage.

“We cannot just stay and watch” as hard-line Islamists provoke intolerance, he said. “These are insane people…we have to bring them back to sanity.”

The FPI says it is guarding public morality from ills such as alcohol, sex outside marriage, corruption and blasphemy. Despite its thuggish reputation, Mr. Bamukmin says that violence is prohibited and that members focus mainly on teaching and preaching.

“Radical is what the media calls us,’’ Mr. Bamukmin said, “but we are just like any other mass organization.”

Established by firebrand clerics after the 1998 fall of longtime dictator Suharto, the FPI is believed by rights groups and many academics to have had support from Indonesia’s security forces to act as an periodic check on potential threats, such as communists or deviant sects. Mr. Bamukmin denied this.

He claims 5 million members, though others outside the group put the number in the thousands. What is clear is that hard-line influence has grown, amplified by social media, which has allowed the FPI to spread its message more widely and call people to action. The FPI’s 70,000 Twitter followers are exhorted to fight blasphemers. The group has also built support by providing charity to disadvantaged communities.

Fundraising comes from members and community donations and not from political parties nor from extremists, said Mr. Bamukmin, a lawyer who dons white robes and a turban when in his FPI role. “We only call on good deeds and prohibit depravity,” he said.

But analysts fear that the growing prominence of hard-line Islamists in setting the national agenda could widen intolerance and extremism.

“I think it’s a dangerous development that of all parts of civil society, the most politically influential should be someone committed to a hard-line, exclusivist, intolerant view of Islam,” said Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a think tank.

In recent weeks, President Joko Widodo has called for respect for pluralism and tried to ease tensions. After declining to meet with protest leaders in November, he showed up unexpectedly at the second rally on Dec. 2, where one of the lead speakers was FPI chief Rizieq Syihab, drawing criticism from some that he was bowing to hard-liners.

A guilty verdict for Mr. Purnama could be punishable by up to five years in prison and end the governor’s chances for election in February, resulting in “a major success for the [FPI] and for all those that rallied around this,” said Ian Wilson, a politics and security lecturer at Murdoch University in Australia. “And they won’t stop at that.”

CONSERVATIVE STRAIN

Indonesia’s pluralism and traditionally moderate form of Islam has been increasingly tested by hard-line Islamists.

  • 1965 New law allows blasphemy to be punished by five years in prison. The law is seldom used during President Suharto’s ensuing 32-year rule.
  • 1998 After Suharto resigns, a handful of clerics establish the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, to ‘guard’ national morality from blasphemy and sin.
  • 2005 The country’s top Islamic clerical authority reiterates a ban on the Ahmadiyah, a small sect many conservative Muslims consider heretical. The sect faces hundreds of incidents of violence in the years that follow.
  • March 2006 The government issues a decree that requires community approval for a house of worship to be built. A spate of churches are closed after Islamic hard-liners allege they don’t have proper building permits.
  • April 2006 The FPI attacks the editorial offices of Playboy Indonesia. Its editor is later sentenced to jail for indecency. The Supreme Court overturns the conviction.
  • 2008 Hardline Islamists attack a gathering in support of religious freedom at Jakarta’s National Monument, injuring dozens. Islamic parties also back an anti-pornography law.
  • 2010 Islamist extremists stab a church elder in a city outside Jakarta. The head of the local FPI chapter is later convicted for the attack. At least 30 churches are attacked or forced to close.
  • 2012 Lady Gaga cancels a planned concert in Jakarta after groups including the FPI threaten violence, saying her clothes and dance clash with Islamic values.
  • 2013 The Miss World pageant is moved from Jakarta to the international resort of Bali following protests from hard-liners who denounce it as pornography. Contestants are required to wear one-piece swimsuits rather than bikinis.
  • 2014 Several police officers are injured during an FPI-led rally against the appointment of a Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.
  • 2015 A decree promoted by Islamic parties prevents convenience stores from selling beverages with an alcohol content of more than 1%.
  • 2016 The FPI leads mass rallies against Mr. Purnama in October, November and December, demanding he be jailed for alleged blasphemy. Hard-line Islamists stage antigay rallies and search for same-sex couples at boardinghouses.

Write to Sara Schonhardt at Sara.Schonhardt@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/hard-line-islamists-capture-spotlight-in-indonesia-1482667212

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Indonesian Police Kill Two Militants After Raid on House in Java — Jakarta has a long history of promoting a tolerant and inclusive Islam

December 25, 2016

JAKARTA — Indonesian police killed two suspected Islamist militants on Sunday in a gunfight during a raid on a house in West Java, a police spokesman said.

Two men had been arrested in Cibinong and led police to a house at the Jatiluhur dam, national police spokesman Awi Setiyono said.

No automatic alt text available.

“There were two men there and there was a gunfight and we had to shoot them,” said Setiyono.

(Reporting by Gayatri Suroyro; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Pluralism in peril: Is Indonesia’s religious tolerance under threat?

By Jewel Topsfield
Sydney Morning Herald

Jakarta: Every Christmas the youth wing of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation provides security outside churches to protect them from attacks by radical groups.

 

On December 24, 2000, Riyanto, a 25-year-old Muslim, screamed for the congregation of Eben Haezer church in Mojokerto, East Java, to get down after he spotted a suspicious package. He was killed when it exploded in his hands as he tore out of the crowded church.

Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists detonated bombs in churches throughout Indonesia that fateful Christmas Eve, killing 18 people. Were it not for Riyanto’s act of heroism, the death toll could have been far higher.

“To feel scared is human, however we think that if we protect humanity it is the same as carrying out jihad [striving for a noble cause],” says Dendy Zuhairil Finsa, the head of the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in Jakarta.

“The teaching of Islam is that we have to protect people of other faiths who are carrying out their religious rituals. Because of that I don’t feel fear.”

This noble act embodies Indonesia’s national motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).

Indonesia is often lauded as a model for Muslim democracy. About 90 per cent of its 250 million people are Muslim but it has a secular government and sizeable Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities.

The country’s 1945 constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the government recognises six official faiths.

“I have a deep and personal appreciation of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s commitment to promoting a tolerant and inclusive Islam,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in his 2016 Lowy lecture.

“He says again and again, Indonesia is proof that democracy, tolerance, moderation and Islam are compatible.”

But there are fears that Indonesia’s pluralism is in peril amid growing discrimination against minority groups and the explosive allegations that Jakarta’s governor, a Christian, insulted Islam.

Under the authoritarian New Order regime, the ideology of Islamic groups was repressed. However following the fall of president Suharto in 1998, they had new-found freedom to advocate their views on morality and, for some, a desire to see a rigid interpretation of Islamic practice implemented in Indonesia.

Although homosexuality has never been outlawed in Indonesia – indeed transvestites, known as waria, have been a feature of life for hundreds of years – this year there were a wave of attacks on LGBT people.

Religious minorities such as the Ahmadiyya – a Muslim sect considered deviant in many Islamic countries – Shiites, the Baha’i and the Druze regularly face persecution.

Early this year an angry mob torched a remote farming community in West Kalimantan belonging to former members of the Gafatar, which the government suspected of being affiliated with “deviant teachings”.

The members were forcibly returned to their home villages to be “re-educated” in Islam and three of the former leaders were charged with blasphemy and treason.

“Incidents of discrimination against religious minorities and attacks on religious properties continue to occur in Indonesia,” says the 2016 United States Commission on International Religious Freedom report.

“Radical groups perpetrate many of these attacks and influence the responses of local government officials when violence occurs.”

A survey this year by the Wahid Institute, which promotes a moderate form of Islam, found the number of violations against freedom of religion jumped from 154 in 2014 to 190 in 2015.

The majority were in West Java and Aceh and largely involved closing places of worship and obstructing religious ceremonies.

“Muslims are being bombarded by these very black-and-white ways of framing issues,” the institute’s director, Yenny Wahid, said at a recent forum.

“For example with the case of the Ahmadiyya: ‘If you love the prophet, you cannot support the Ahmadiyya’. That would be the argument of the radicals to convince the lay Muslims.”

Wahid believes the debate over the allegedly blasphemous comments made by Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, is being fuelled in the same way.

“If you love the Koran, then you have to be against the one who blasphemes against the Koran,” she says. “It is really hard when it is framed that way.”

When Ahok became governor of Jakarta in 2014 – the first openly Christian, ethnically Chinese in the role – it was heralded by many as a new era in Indonesian democracy and tolerance.

Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, at a campaign event in Jakarta in November.The ascension of Jakarta governor “Ahok” was seen as a turning point in Indonesian democracy. Photo: AP

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But there were those who vociferously opposed his appointment on the grounds that a non-Muslim should not be governor of Jakarta.

The hardline Islam Defenders Front (FPI) rallied outside the city council protesting he was arrogant, had insulted civil servants and used his authority to carry out “Christianisation”. However the FPI was broadly considered a fringe radical group and not taken seriously.

Ahok has turned out to be a polarising governor. He was applauded by middle-class Jakartans for reforming the bureaucracy, his strong stance against corruption and his attempts to improve intractable Jakarta problems such as flooding and traffic.

However the urban poor railed against mass forced evictions of slums and environmentalists criticised his plan for reclamation of Jakarta Bay. Others questioned whether he was really so squeaky clean after he was called as a witness in a couple of corruption cases.

But Ahok’s undoing proved to be a provocative speech he gave on Indonesia’s Thousand Islands on September 27, while campaigning for re-election in February’s gubernatorial poll.

The mayor told fishermen they had been deceived into not voting for him by his opponents who cited verse 51 from the fifth sura, or chapter, of the Koran, al-Maida.

Some Muslims interpret al-Maida as a prohibition on Muslims living under the leadership of a non-Muslim. Others say the scripture should be understood in its context – a time of war – and not interpreted literally.

Here was the chink in the armour his opponents had been looking for. A video of the speech went viral on Facebook. Three mass rallies were held demanding Ahok be jailed for blasphemy.

Police named him a suspect and he is now on trial in the North Jakarta District Court for allegedly insulting Islam.

Australian National University professor Marcus Mietzner believes the “trumped-up blasphemy charges” have provided a narrative to cloak anti-Chinese sentiment.

“My sense is that deep-seated racial and religious sentiments were able to be mobilised by a case that allowed ordinary Indonesians to justify towards themselves and towards the outside world these very sentiments,” he told the Carnegie Council.

Chinese Indonesians make up just a fraction of the population but own a disproportionate amount of the country’s wealth, and resentment runs deep.

Many Chinese Indonesians are still haunted by the 1998 riots in some cities in Indonesia which were triggered by unemployment and food shortages. The mob vented their rage on the Chinese community, who were perceived to be better off. Chinese shops were looted, scores of Chinese women raped and an estimated 1000 people killed.

Indonesian anti-riot police try to push a group of students during a protest against rising prices and unemployment.Indonesian anti-riot police try to push a group of students during a protest against rising prices and unemployment. Photo: Reuters

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Din Syamsuddin is the chairman of the advisory council of the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI), Indonesia’s top Islamic scholarly body. The council issued a fatwa, or opinion, in October that Ahok had insulted the Koran.

Din estimates that 60 to 70 per cent of those who attended the December 2 rally were from the Muslim middle class and not Islamic hardliners. “There is an accumulation of feeling of injustice and discrimination especially in the field of the economy by many Muslim groups,” he says.

Din believes the sheer scale of the rallies and the level of discontent they have exposed should prompt the Indonesian government to take steps to alleviate economic disparity. “Those people are getting a hard feeling when others blame them of being anti-plurality,” he says.

“I think the majority of Muslims in this country are tolerant.”

Human Rights Watch’s Andreas Harsono is far more pessimistic.

According to Amnesty International 106 people were jailed for blasphemy between 2005 and 2014. Their offences included leading prayers in Indonesian rather than Arabic, pulling the plug on a mosque loudspeaker and punctuating prayers with whistling. The number of acquittals was negligible.

Harsono believes Ahok will be jailed, possibly for the maximum five years.

He also believes there will be more pressure to have Muslim leaders in predominantly Muslim communities. “There will also be more provisions of the sharia [Islamic code of conduct] in Indonesia, whether it is compulsory to wear hijab, whether it is not going out at night for a Muslim woman, whether it is more and more restrictions with the Ahmadiyya, the [Shiites] and others. LGBT violence is also going to increase. This is going to be a very, very difficult time for Indonesia.”

Memories of the 2000 Christmas Eve bombings are still raw and Indonesia always feels jittery at this time of year.

An Indonesian policeman, left, watches as cars burn in the street following a bomb explosion in front of a church in Jakarta Sunday night, Dec. 24, 2000. Religious tensions in mainly Muslim Indonesia flared Christmas Eve when a spate of bombs exploded outside the Roman Catholic Cathedral and other churches in Jakarta and other towns, killing some 10 people. (AP Photo/str)An Indonesian policeman, left, watches as cars burn in the street following a bomb explosion in front of a church in Jakarta on December 24, 2000. Photo: AP

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Just four days before Christmas police killed alleged Islamic State-linked militants suspected of plotting attacks over the holiday period. An Islamic group shut down a Christmas service in Bandung. There was the usual flurry of controversy over whether Muslim shopworkers were being forced to wear Santa hats.

A fatwa was issued banning Christmas costumes for Muslims which Islamic hardliners sought to enforce at shopping malls in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city.

But amid all the noise, the selfless actions of the youth wing of NU give cause for optimism. Police have asked them, as they do every year, to provide security outside churches, including the Jakarta Cathedral and Immanuel Church, over Christmas.

“We are always ready to protect pluralism,” says Dendy. “In Islam we have to maintain good relations with people of all faiths.”

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