Mon, Dec 03, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Conservative Indonesian Muslims rally in Jakarta

Reuters, JAKARTA

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims attend a rally to commemorate rallies against former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Tens of thousands of Indonesian Muslims yesterday held a rally in Jakarta led by hardline groups that have agitated to remove the city’s Christian governor, underscoring the growing influence of Muslim groups ahead of elections next year.

The rally was attended by former general Prabowo Subianto, a nationalist with strong links to Muslim fundamentalists who is seeking to topple Indonesian President Joko Widodo in next year’s polls after being narrowly defeated in 2014 following a bitterly fought campaign.

The crowd, many of whom were dressed in white and carrying Muslim flags, started gathering at Jakarta’s National Monument from about 3am to hold prayers.

“We are proud because the Islam in Indonesia is Islam that unifies, and is united and will maintain peace for everyone,” Subianto said in a speech.

About 23,000 police had been put on standby, but the rally concluded peacefully.

Organizers called their movement a “reunion” for a series of rallies starting in late 2016 that targeted then-Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the first ethnic Chinese Christian in the job, who was charged with insulting the Koran. Religious and political tensions spiraled during the period and Purnama, an ally of Widodo, lost his bid for re-election to a Muslim rival and was later sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy.

Hardline Muslim groups were banned under the authoritarian regime of former Indonesian president Suharto, which ended in 1998, but they have gained ground over the past few years, emerging from the fringes of society in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country.

Widodo, who is a popular moderate, has chosen 75-year-old Muslim cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate in next year’s election, sparking concern among some that he is pandering to conservative Muslims in a pluralist country with significant minority communities.

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