MORE than 500 hate-fuelled banners have been removed from across Jakarta, Indonesia, ahead of the tense and controversy-riddled gubernatorial election next month.
According to the Jakarta Globe, police are looking into the source of the banners, one of which read “Muslims who vote for an infidel leader or blasphemer do not deserve a funeral prayer at mosque”, accusing the perpetrators of “hate speech.”
“We’re looking into the situation. It’s clear the banners were a provocation and might even be considered hate speech,” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said.
Boy said if users distributed images of the implicated banners on social media, they could be charged with violating the Law on Electronic Information and Transactions.
“We are looking into mosques located near the banner hot spots – the highest concentration of banners. We are also trying to determine those who spread the discriminatory images on social media.”
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The provocative banners have been appearing across Jakarta since January in an attempt to dissuade people from voting for incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in the second round of voting scheduled for April 19.
Ahok, who is Jakarta’s first ethnic Chinese and Christian governor, has been embroiled in a blasphemy trial since December 2016 after footage of him emerged of him purportedly insulting the Quran.
It has since been reported the footage was edited out of context. Ahok has denied all charges and defended his innocence in court.
— Chandni Vatvani (@chandniCNA) February 11, 2017
Despite the ongoing trial and ensuing controversy, Ahok has remained in the race for governor and came out on top by a marginal 2.34 percent in the first round of voting.
Acting governor Sumarsono has condemned the banners and has called for residents to remove them.
“We ask locals to voluntarily remove the provocative banners to create a peaceful Jakarta ahead of the gubernatorial election,” he told reporters.
According to Sumarsono, the Indonesian Mosque Council has issued a circular letter asking local residents to help remove the banners, urging people to maintain “civil discourse” in politics and to not allow religion to be used “for certain political interests in the election.”
Tensions have reached a fever pitch in the capital over religious and ethnic sentiments surrounding the Jakarta election, with Muslim hardliners demanding the arrest of Ahok, conducting a number of rallies in protest and threatening Muslim residents who decide to vote for him.
Ahok supporters have accused the opposition of using the controversy to their political advantage.
Ahok faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of the blasphemy charge under Article 156(a) of the Criminal Code.