In Indonesia, Governor of Jakarta, Basuk “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama is fighting the battle of his life – based on accusations by Islamists that he blasphemed the Koran.
In an unprecedented development, Ahok, a Christian minority was chosen to run as Vice Governor to Joko.. in 2012. Two years into their regime, Joko further went on to run for Presidency of the country, and he won. Ahok thus became the substantive governor.
Islamists in the ordinarily tolerant country with the largest muslim population in the world, did not find the development amusing or acceptable. Referring to Ahok as a “son of Satan”, Muslim cleric Habib Muhsin Alathas forcefully re-asserted the koranic/Islamic principle that Christians should never have authority over Muslims.
Ahok who is not known for much finesse, countered at a campaign trail to fishermen on Sept 27, saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t have to vote for me because you’ve been lied to [or fooled] with Surat Almaidah 51 [Sura 5:51] and the like. That’s your right. If you feel you can’t vote for me because you fear you’ll go to hell, because you’ve been lied to [or fooled], no worries. That’s your personal right. These programs will go forward. So you don’t have to feel uncomfortable. Follow your conscience, you don’t have to vote for Ahok.” (translation by Sidney Jones)
The video of that speech soon went viral on Youtube with the IFP insisting it amounted to blasphemy against the Koran. Authorities at first treated the issue lightly, but when the IFP amassed first a restive crowd of 200,000 people, and later another crowd double that figure, the authorities responded by initiating legal proceedings against Ahok. Morning Star News reports that “The trial, which is being televised live, is being rushed through the court and is expected to conclude early in 2017.”
Almost all foreign experts following the case are convinced there is no way Gov. “Ahok” can escape a jail sentence. Professor Tim Lindsay of Melbourne Law School was reported to have observed that not only has a fatwa been issued against Ahok, but the massive rallies have terrified authorities. “Consequently, Lindsay expects judges to be influenced by public opinion and pay little attention to evidence” the Morning Star News reports on Dec 13. To have an idea of the tensed atmosphere during the proceedings, some 2,000 policemen were required just to keep the crowd outside the courthouse in check.
In the meantime, following the refusal of the North Jakarta District Court to accept Ahok’s initial refutations on Dec. 27, he has been forced to step out of the gubernatorial race scheduled for February 15 2017. He had been the clear favourite to win the election before the Islamists got him entrapped with the blasphemy charge. If found guilty, as he is expected to be, Ahok could be jailed for up to five years. Worse, some pious Islamist might decide to execute the fatwa already pronounced on him by direct assassination. For more details, see: http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21712161-countrys-reputation-tolerance-now-doubt-persecution-christian-mayor
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