Thousands demand Jakarta governor's resignation in Indonesia

The most populous Muslim country in the world, with around 250 million people, has seen escalating religious and ethnic tensions ahead of Jakarta's 2017 gubernatorial election.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

An aerial view shows mass protests against Jakarta's incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian running in the upcoming election, in Jakarta, Indonesia, November 4, 2016.

Tens of thousands of Muslim protesters in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta marched on Friday to demand the resignation of the Christian Chinese governor of the city, for allegedly insulting the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Governor Basuki Tjahja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok made the comment while dismissing a political attack by an opponent.

The most populous Muslim country in the world, with around 250 million people, has seen escalating religious and ethnic tensions ahead of Jakarta's 2017 gubernatorial election.

"He is not Muslim but he humiliated the Koran," protester Muhammad Said said.

"Don't refer to anything in the Koran, especially interpreting it incorrectly ... I call on God to jail him." he said.

Protesters gathered at the central Istiqlal Mosque, the country's biggest mosque, to move towards the presidential palace.

Islamic Defenders Front led the demonstration. (AFP)

Purnama will compete for re-election against two Muslims - Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and a former education minister, Anies Baswedan.

He served as deputy to President Joko Widodo when Widodo was city governor from 2012 to 2014. And he has been seen as an ally of the president for a long time.

Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla called for a peaceful protest in a joint statement on Thursday, saying "everything and everyone should continue to work as normal."

Protesters chanted "Hang Ahok!" and "Allah is greatest", while waving placards and singing the national anthem. (Reuters)

Purnama was not available for comment. His spokeswoman said he went to oversee the construction of a sidewalk in north Jakarta.

Ethnic Chinese make up just over one percent of Indonesia, and they usually do not enter politics.

Besides the Jakarta protest, many demonstrations have been held in several areas of the country including Surabaya, Makassar and Medan.​

TRTWorld and agencies