The first Christian in decades to become governor of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, was sentenced to two years in prison for alleged blasphemy against Islam. The harsh sentence is perceived as a critical blow to religious ‘tolerance’ in the world’s largest Muslim majority country.
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Daily Caller The governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was “found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy,” a judge declared Tuesday. Purnama intends to appeal the ruling. The governor, a political ally of President Joko Widodo, was taken to a prison in East Jakarta.
Indonesia’s blasphemy controversy emerged in September, when an incorrectly-subtitled video of the governor criticizing those who claim that the Qur’an prohibits Muslims from having a non-Muslim leader surfaced online.
Hundreds of thousands of Indonesian’s marched on the capital in protest. A riot in November involving around 100,000 people turned violent, killing one and injuring a dozen others. A few weeks later, roughly 200,000 conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian capital to protest Purnama, who is known as “Ahok” by his supporters. There were more huge protests in February, and thousands more Muslims marched on Jakarta in March of this year to demand Purnama’s arrest.
Hardliners called for the maximum penalty — five years, but he was given a reduced sentence. When the verdict was announced, many of Ahok’s supporters declared the trial a farce. Many were angry, and others reportedly cried openly. Purnama enjoyed popularity as the governor of Jakarta.
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country with 87% of the population, or more than 200 million people, saying they are followers of Islam. While Indonesia has built a reputation as a tolerant, diverse nation, experts say Ahok’s conviction is the latest example of the country’s growing conservatism.
“If someone like Ahok, the governor of the capital, backed by the country’s largest political party, ally of the president, can be jailed on groundless accusations, what will others do?” asked Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch, according to Reuters.