The Indonesian government has put Jakarta on high alert and deployed over 20,000 police and military personnel across the city as it prepares for a protest by hard-line Muslims demanding the resignation of the city's governor. The protesters claim Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama — the first ethnic Chinese Catholic to hold the position — insulted the Koran.
Led by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) the protesters plan to march to the palace on 4 November to push President Joko Widodo to take legal action against Purnama for religious defamation. "He is not Muslim but he humiliated the Koran," protester Muhammad told Reuters. "Don't refer to anything in the Koran, especially interpreting it incorrectly...I call on God to jail him."
Authorities are concerned that with more than 100,000 people expected to be part of the protest, the situation could get violent. Companies have asked their employees to work from home and a number of foreign embassies have warned their citizens to stay away from the rally.
In a bid to release some of the tension, Widodo requested people to remain calm. "Everything and everyone should continue to work as normal, schools should run as normal," he said in a joint statement with Vice President Jusuf Kalla.
"The government will listen to all opinions... but I believe because the protest will be carried out on Friday, a holy day, protesters will be respectful. That is our hope," Kalla added.
Purnama unpopular in Jakarta
Holding a double minority status in the Islamic country, Governor Purnama has had to face SARA [abbreviation in the local language to mean ethnicity, religion and race] issues since starting his term. At the time, the FPI protested against his election on grounds of his religion and ethnicity.
The recent protest, however, stems from a video that surfaced of Purnama's visit to an Indonesian island, during which he referred to a verse from the Koran that seemed to suggest it was un-Islamic to vote for a leader of a different religion. He then urged his audience not to be swayed by those using the verse to garner votes.
Following the incident, Purnama released a statement apologising to the public. "I want to apologize to Muslims, but I never intended to insult Islam or the Quran."