07 December 2016
Jakarta recently witnessed its biggest rallies in years. On Nov 4, about 100,000 people took to the streets, calling for the arrest of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok, for alleged blasphemy. About 500,000 people participated in a second rally staged on Dec 2. These rallies were led by the conservative Muslim group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), under the banner “Bela Islam” (Defend Islam).
While grievances with Ahok should not be dismissed as purely religiously driven – claims of corruption and policies biased towards the middle-class ethnic Chinese minority are allegedly aplenty – mass mobilisation was possible precisely because of the use of religious rhetoric.
This has led many media reports to simply frame the protests as a sign of a radical strain of Islam taking hold in Jakarta. In fact, what the hardliners have also demonstrated was how a decontextualised reading of a sacred text – in this case the Quran – can be misused for ends that are inimical to public peace and social cohesion.
… Nursheila Muez is a research analyst with the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme, at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
SRP / Online / Print
Last updated on 07/12/2016