JAKARTA • Thousands of Muslim hardliners protested in Jakarta demanding that the Indonesian capital's Christian governor be executed for allegedly insulting Islam, as he faces an increasingly tight election race.
About 10,000 demonstrators wearing white Islamic robes and skullcaps rallied outside the Jakarta City Hall yesterday, waving banners that read: "The blasphemer must be prosecuted."
The protest was triggered by accusations that Jakarta's ethnic Chinese governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, insulted Islam by criticising opponents who used Quranic references to attack him ahead of the February polls.
"Ahok must be executed. According to Islamic teaching, he must be killed," Mr Emed Muhammad, a hardline opponent of the governor, told the cheering protesters.
"Jakarta is now being governed by an infidel, but Indonesia has the biggest Muslim population."
Hundreds of policemen and soldiers were deployed around the City Hall to ensure the rally did not get out of hand.
In his controversial remarks last month, Mr Purnama told a crowd they had been "deceived" by his opponents who used a Quranic verse to try to put them off voting for a Christian. "You are being fooled," he said.
Mr Purnama, Jakarta's second Christian governor and the first from Indonesia's ethnic Chinese community, is popular for his no-nonsense style and determination to clean up Jakarta, an overcrowded, disorganised and polluted metropolis.
But his tough-talking style, unusual for a politician in Indonesia, has alienated some, and he faces constant opposition from hardline Islamic groups, who protested for weeks when he became governor two years ago.