One of the prosecution’s witnesses in the “blasphemy” trial of Jakarta’s Christian governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, has admitted to threatening to potentially incite mob violence to get police to press charges. The secretary of an Islamic organisation, who reported Ahok to police for “blasphemy” in September for an alleged anti-Islamic comment made online, has admitted under cross-examination that he told police: “if they didn’t file my report, thousands of Muslims would come [to the police station].” He then stressed, “This was not because I wanted to force [the police], but because it is a mandate for every Muslim [to protect Islam’s honor].”
The revelation appears to support claims that Islamists are using allegations of “blasphemy” against Ahok as a pretext to ignite political change; thousands of Muslim protestors gathered at multiple rallies in November and December organised by the Islam Defenders Front (IDF), a group which has also protested against the presence of churches in Indonesia. Police are now questioning the head of the IDF on potential political charges: a police spokesperson said “Unfortunately, democracy is being misused by certain groups to limit other people's freedoms, for instance, by those with fundamentalist or Wahhabi thinking who then target minorities.”
The trial of Ahok, Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor in over half a century, on charges of “blasphemy”, is a watershed moment for Indonesia, a country which was founded on a doctrine of harmonious relations between different faiths, but where Islamists are pushing for power.