Another blasphemy march

Meanwhile in Jakarta

Tens of thousands of Indonesians marched in Jakarta on Friday, demanding that the city’s first Christian governor in decades be jailed for blasphemy. The rally was a show of strength by conservative Islamic groups, who were offended by his earlier remarks about the Quran and want to weaken him as he runs for re-election.

I guess that’s one thing we can be grateful for in the US: Trump doesn’t call his enemies blasphemers.

The governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, is an ethnic Chinese Indonesian and the first Christian in nearly 50 years to govern Jakarta, capital of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

He has been a political target of some Islamic organizations since taking office in 2014. Some of those groups seized on comments he made in September to a group of fishermen, in which he lightheartedly cited a Quran verse that warns against taking Christians and Jews as friends.

His comments circulated on social media, and hard-liners accused him of blasphemy, which is a criminal offense in Indonesia, and pressured the police to investigate. Mr. Basuki has repeatedly apologized to Muslims who were offended by his remark, but he has rejected calls to withdraw from the election for governor in February, which he is heavily favored to win.

Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Indonesia. Worth noting.

“Precisely because religion and ethnicity are as such not electoral factors, Ahok’s opponents have to up the game,” said Marcus Mietzner, an associate professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, who closely follows Indonesian politics. “Instead of claiming that Ahok shouldn’t be governor because he’s a Christian — which hasn’t worked — they try to portray him as a blasphemist who violated the law.”

The reason, said Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice chairman of the Setara Institute, a Jakarta organization that promotes religious tolerance, is simple but desperate: an effort to force the governor out of the race, which will go to a second round if none of the three candidates gets 50 percent of the vote.

So it is, if they’re right, a cynical ploy – but the ploy wouldn’t be possible if “blasphemy” were not an issue.

Protesters on Friday, many of whom had arrived in groups from neighboring West Java, chanted, “Hang Ahok, hang the traitor,” and, “Cut off a hand and foot and deport him.”

Maybe they didn’t get the memo about the cynical ploy – or maybe they were just giving a good performance.

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