Indonesia’s reputation for religious tolerance is expected be tested at the upcoming blasphemy trial of Jakarta’s Christian Governor “Ahok” Basuki.
- Targeted after telling voters they were being misled by clerics saying Muslims could not vote for a Christian
- Sparked reports that Mr Purnama criticised the Koran and not the clerics
- Professor Greg Fealy says he is not guilty of blasphemy
Hardline Islamic clerics have urged their supporters to attend the hearing, with security expected to be tight.
At a weekend rally, the cleric Habib Muhsin Alathas called Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok as he is widely known, “the son of Satan” and said Christians should never have authority over Muslims.
“Some of you come to the headquarters of the pig’s pimple, shaking hands with him, and even kiss his hand,” he said.
“You have been kissing the hand of someone who is not circumcised — you’re better off kissing a goat’s arse.”
Mr Purnama has been targeted by hardliners since he told voters that they were being misled by clerics who said Muslims were not permitted to vote for a Christian.
That relatively innocuous remark sparked inaccurate reports that Mr Purnama had criticised the Koran, not the clerics.
Two mass protests followed, and at the second earlier this month around half a million Muslims gave their support to the campaign for Mr Purnama’s jailing.
Around half a million Muslims support the campaign for Mr Purnama to be jailed. (ABC News: Adam Harvey)
‘Very likely the courts will find him guilty’
Associate Professor Greg Fealy, Australia National University’s (ANU) Indonesia expert, was called in by police to give his opinion.
“My own view is that he is not guilty of blasphemy at all and in fact the charges against him are a miscarriage of justice,” he said.
“We’ll wait to see what happens when he gets to court, but I — and indeed two thirds of the expert witnesses whom the police called in to give evidence in this case — believe that he had not committed blasphemy.
“Nonetheless there’s a public perception that he has. And unfortunately I think a great many Indonesians have stopped looking with an open mind at the case.
“They’ve just accepted these massive social media campaigns that have labelled him as someone who’s insulted Islam.
“And so there’s probably no way out for him now except to go through this court process, which is very likely to find him guilty I suspect.”
Cleric issues warning if court does not find Ahok guilty
Indonesia prides itself on religious tolerance, but those running the campaign against Mr Purnama are proudly intolerant.
Habib Muhsin Alathas has been adamant that a Christian should never have authority over Muslims.
“We should never ever have given our trust to him to lead us,” he said.
“Why? Because the guide is from Allah, in the Koran, and choosing leaders who do not believe in Islam — that’s equal with eating pork.”
And there was a clear warning about what would happen if the court acquitted Mr Purnama.
Cleric Habib Muhsin Alathas did not bother hiding his racism towards the Chinese Christian Governor during his speech.
“So, if this thin eyes [Indonesian sarcasm for the Chinese] does not go in jail, we will go out onto the street once more, right?”
The trial is being rushed through the courts and should be over early next year.