Thousands of Indonesians expected to rally on Nov 19 against rising racial and religious intolerance

Indonesian protesters rally against allegedly blasphemous remark made by Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama outside the presidential palace in Jakarta on Nov 4, 2016.
Indonesian protesters rally against allegedly blasphemous remark made by Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama outside the presidential palace in Jakarta on Nov 4, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Thousands of Indonesians are expected to rally on Saturday (Nov 19) against what they see as growing racial and religious intolerance in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

Religious leaders, human right groups and other organisations will join the parade in central Jakarta, spokeswoman Umi Azalea said by telephone.

The movement was not political but aimed at "celebrating Indonesia's diversity", Ms Azalea said. "Indonesia has so many religions, cultures and ethnicities. Yet now we are seeing some groups that are forcing their own will, and that is very worrying."

Indonesian police said on Wednesday (Nov 16) they would investigate a complaint by Muslim groups that the Christian governor of Jakarta, Mr Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, had insulted Islam.

The decision has stoked concerns about rising hardline Islamic sentiment in the country of 250 million people and is also seen by some analysts as a blow to democracy.

More than 100,000 Muslims protested against Mr Basuki earlier this month. Police fired tear-gas and water cannon to quell the protest.

There are also signs of rising religious tension elsewhere in Indonesia. Last Sunday (Nov 13), police arrested a suspected militant who threw an explosive device at a church in the eastern island of Borneo.