ANTI-AMERICAN protests have taken place in Muslim-majority Southeast Asian states of Indonesia and Malaysia against United States President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.
Several thousand protesters marched to the US embassies in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur on Friday, following strong official condemnation of Trump’s decision from their respective governments earlier in the week.
“We’re standing here in the name of justice and humanity. We’ve gathered to defend our Palestinian brothers and sisters,” said one rally leader in Jakarta as quoted by Reuters. Some wore checkered scarves and waved Palestinian flags, while others shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).
Water cannons were on standby at the site, but the rally was peaceful and the number of demonstrators appeared far lower than the 500 to 1,000 police had anticipated.
On Wednesday, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo tweeted that the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation “strongly condemned the unilateral recognition” of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
“The people of Indonesia are consistently with the Palestinians in their fight for independence and their rights,” he said. Jokowi later urged the United States to reconsider its decision and instructed his foreign minister to summon the US ambassador for an explanation.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said this week that “Indonesia clearly expressed its deep concern over the issue of the status of Jerusalem.”
“Any change in the status of Jerusalem will endanger the peace process and peace itself,” she said as quoted by the state Antara News agency. At the 10th Bali Democracy Forum on Thursday, Retno appeared wearing a Palestinian-style scarf.
Indonesia has been a long-running supporter of the two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and there have been demonstrations in support of the Palestinians in recent years.
But one protester named Yuddy Kurniawan told Reuters on Friday he was not satisfied with his government’s response to the US decision. “Jokowi can be tougher and call for a boycott of American products for instance,” he said.
In Kuala Lumpur, meanwhile, protesters shouting anti-US slogans and burning an effigy of Trump. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday called on Muslims worldwide to strongly oppose any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
A statement from the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the country was “extremely concerned” with Trump’s announcement, which it said would increase the risk of terrorism.
Recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was “aggression not only against the Arab and Islamic Ummah, but are also infringements on the rights of Muslims and Christians alike,” it said.
On Friday, leaders from the ruling party United Malay National Organisation and the right-wing Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, both of which represent majority, ethnic-Malay Muslims, led the rally of several thousand people.
“Mr President, this is an illegal announcement. Jerusalem is an occupied territory,” Minister for Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin said through a loud hailer towards the embassy. The protesters later dispersed peacefully.
Trump said on Wednesday the United States would move its embassy to Jerusalem in the coming years.
Protests have erupted in the West Bank and the Gaza strip as the Islamist group Hamas urged Palestinians to launch a fresh uprising against Israel.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest barriers to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace. Its eastern sector was captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognised internationally. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of an independent state they seek.
Additional reporting from Reuters.