Anti-Ahok cleric also faces blasphemy probe

Firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab said in a 22-second video clip, when talking about Christianity: "If God gave birth, then who would be the midwife?"
Firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab said in a 22-second video clip, when talking about Christianity: "If God gave birth, then who would be the midwife?"PHOTO: REUTERS

Two student associations accuse him of insulting Christians

JAKARTA • The leader of a hardline Indonesian Islamic group, who is at the forefront of pushing for a blasphemy case against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, has found himself facing a police probe for allegedly insulting Christians.

Firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab, who heads the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), has been reported to the police by two student associations for remarks he made in a sermon, which was recorded on video.

He said in the 22-second video clip, when talking about Christianity: "If God gave birth, then who would be the midwife?"

Mr Rizieq was reported to the Jakarta police by the Indonesian Catholic Students Association (PMKRI) and Students Peace Institute after a video of the sermon was uploaded onto social media websites.

The police said they will soon question witnesses as part of the blasphemy case implicating Mr Rizieq, 51.

Mr Rizieq was one of three people who were reported to the police. The others are Mr Fauzi Ahmad, who uploaded the video of Mr Rizieq's speech onto an Instagram account, and Twitter user Saya Reya, who also uploaded the video.

One of the complainants, PMKRI chairman Angelius Wake Kako, said on Monday that as a Christian, he had "felt humiliated and hurt" when he heard the statement.

"All Indonesians should respect diversity by not interfering in the private rooms of other religions," he said.

"Only Christians know about the Christian faith. Anyone who doesn't know about it, he'd better shut up."

Previous reports said the FPI has been aggressively pushing for its hardline Islamist agenda on the streets of Jakarta - including harassing religious minorities such as Christians and members of the Ahmadiyah Muslim sect - and that it has a track record of violence.

The move against Mr Rizieq came after a court ruled on Tuesday that it will proceed with a blasphemy trial against Mr Basuki, better known by his nickname Ahok.

"We will question a number of witnesses, such as information technology experts, crime experts, religious experts and others," said Jakarta police spokesman Raden Argo Yuwono, according to tribunnews.com.

A case review will be carried out after the questioning of the witnesses, he added.

Similar to Mr Basuki, Mr Rizieq is accused of violating Article 156, Section A of the Criminal Code on blasphemy.

The charge carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.

Asked if the case review of the Rizieq case would be carried out openly like Mr Basuki's case review, Senior Commander Argo said that the decision would be up to investigators. "Just wait for the investigation into the case," he said, telling those who reported Mr Rizieq to the police to be patient while the police carried out their investigation.

Mr Rizieq was a prominent figure in the massive demonstrations held recently in Jakarta to demand a police investigation into Mr Basuki's alleged blasphemy.

JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2016, with the headline 'Anti-Ahok cleric also faces blasphemy probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe