CENTRAL Jakarta will again be the site of mass demonstration by hardline Islamic groups on Friday, who will take to the streets to demand the arrest of the city’s Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama over blasphemy charges.
The groups organising the Aksi Damai or “peaceful action” have submitted an official notification to police. Some organisers have claimed they are expecting four million people to attend. The demonstration, dubbed Aksi 313 to mark the date (March 31), follows similar mass protests held last November and December.
Jakarta’s metropolitan police received notification from the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) on Wednesday afternoon, one of the groups behind the Friday protest along with Guardians of the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwas (GNPF-MUI).
The FUI and the notorious Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have protested Ahok, who is Christian and of Chinese ethnicity, ever since he came to power in 2014. During the 2012 election campaign, when Ahok was now-president Joko Widodo’s running mate, these groups also vocally opposed the candidate due to his race and religion.
The protests have stepped up since last year, however, since the incumbent was charged with blasphemy after comments he made regarding whether Muslims should vote for a non-Muslim leader.
Responding to complaints that frequent hardliner protests create a standstill in the already-congested megacity, head of the FUI Bernard Abdul Jabbar said, “You have to understand all demonstrations create disruptions to traffic. It’s not just FUI. Protests by teachers, students will also cause traffic jams.”
Bernard said the protest on Friday will be safe and peaceful.
“We have already informed the police, (about) this peaceful action. All this time, protests by FUI haven’t been violent or harmed other communities,” he said.
An estimated 100,000 people took to the streets of Jakarta to protest against Ahok last November. By nightfall, mobs had looted a convenience store and set fire to vehicles, while frightened residents were barred in their homes.
Protesters later moved to Chinese-majority areas of the city and to Ahok’s house in North Jakarta, calling for his arrest.
— #SPIRIT 212 (@212_spirit) March 28, 2017
#Aksi313 is trending on Twitter, and an image depicting the ethnic Chinese governor next to a Chinese flag is being circulated.
— G'e007#MCA (@Gemacan70) March 29, 2017
As with previous demonstrations, many protesters are expected to flood into Jakarta from other regions, including deeply conservative West Java.
United Development Party (PPP) deputy chairman Djan Farid suggested the out-of-town protesters should instead take a tour of religious sites in Jakarta, rather than simply visit the National Monument in Central Jakarta.
Interestingly, Farid recommended the Aksi 313 demonstrators go to Kalijodo – formerly Jakarta’s largest red light district – which governor Ahok converted last year into a public park. As an Islamist Party, the PPP strongly opposes prostitution, gambling and alcohol.
Kalijodo residents were forcibly evicted as part of the governor’s push for urban renewal and combatting flooding in the capital.
Right-wing groups have seized on the fear and anger of Jakarta’s poor because of Ahok’s forced evictions, recruiting evictees from these areas to join their organisations.