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More than 100,000 Muslims demonstrate against Jakarta governor

More than 100,000 Muslims from throughout Indonesia today gathered in the republic's capital in a mass demonstration against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok.

The protesters, who represented various religious organisations, including women's organisations, have been arriving in Jakarta since yesterday.

They had earlier gathered at the Istiqlal Mosque, before marching towards the Presidential Palace after Friday prayers.

The men, the vast majority of whom turned up in white tops, performed the Friday prayers on the streets while listening to sermons urging Muslims to unite against any kind of insult to Islam and the Quran.

Meanwhile, dpa reported that one person was killed in clashes between police and the Muslim protestors demanding that Ahok, a Christian, be arrested for comments perceived as denigrating the Quran, police said.

The identity of the victim is not yet known, Jakarta police spokesman Awi Setiyono said.

A check by Bernama along Jalan Merdeka Barat, from the Patung Kuda roundabout, revealed that despite being trapped in a sea of people, the protesters stopped and 'berselawat' (praised Prophet Muhammad) while some gave religious lectures.

Thousands of police and military personnel secured the site of the demonstration by allowing the protesters to pass by to avoid any untoward incident.

Security forces fully mobilised

The security forces had also mobilised their respective air units to monitor the demonstration while the land units guarded the streets and the palace.

Earlier, presidential spokesman Johan Budi told reporters that Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Wiranto would accept the memorandum by the demonstration's organiser, on behalf of President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, at the palace as the president had to attend a function elsewhere.

In a televised broadcast, Jokowi urged Muslims who participated in the demonstration not to create chaos.

He said the government allowed any kind of people's protest as long as they were conducted in an orderly manner and there was no element of anarchism.

Religious Minister Lokman Saifuddin was spotted walking among the crowd and towards the palace to join several ministers to receive the memorandum of objection, on behalf of the government.

Among those attending the mass gathering were National Mandate Party (PAN) leader Amien Rais, Dewa lead singer Ahmad Dani, who is contesting for the post of Bekasi district deputy officer, and popular dangdut singer Rhoma Irama.

The protesters wanted the police to take action against Ahok, who had been accused of committing blasphemy for disputing the interpretation of the Surah Al Maidah verse in the Quran during an election campaign in Pulau Seribu last month.

Ahok was reported to have urged the Muslim community not to be tricked into believing the verse that prohibited Muslims from electing a non-Muslim as a leader.

The man, who will defend his governor's post in the 2017 regional head election, subsequently apologised to the Muslim community, saying he had no intention of insulting Islam.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's police chief Tito Karnavian said the authorities would record a statement from Ahok on Monday, and urged all quarters to calm down to enable the police to conduct a fair investigation.

- Bernama

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