Rally backs Jakarta governor 

Jakarta Muslims demand the removal of the governor. Source: YouTube

Tens of thousands of Indonesian protesters have attended a “unity rally” in Jakarta to counter demonstrations against the city’s governor.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as “Ahok”, is accused of insulting Islam.

Two protests condemning him, with the latter attracting around 200,000 Muslims, have already been staged.

Sunday’s protest coincided with a weekly car-free morning in Jakarta when a central artery is handed used by pedestrians for a few hours.

Ahok is Christian and ethnically Chinese, who make up about 1 per cent of the population.

Sunday’s counter-demonstration was described as a “parade of Indonesian culture”. National leaders of political parties in the ruling coalition delivered short speeches on the importance of keeping the diverse nation united.

It featured traditional dances from across the sprawling archipelago and a huge flag proclaiming: “We are Indonesia”. Police said 30,000 people attended the demonstration.

The Jakarta Post said that the protest was organised by two parties that are part of President Joko Widodo’s ruling coalition. Widodo and Ahok are allies but the president attended the most recent rally against him on Friday.

“We have to fight to materialise the aims of our independence,” Surya Paloh, chairman of the National Democratic Party, told the rally.

“That will not happen if we are scattered, blaspheming, humiliating each other and no longer trust each other.

“Our main enemies are stupidity and poverty. Therefore we ask the current government to work harder and always consistently with the people’s aspirations.”

In September, Ahok said Islamic groups who were using a Koranic verse to win over supporters were deceiving voters. The verse has been interpreted as prohibiting Muslims from living under the rule of a non-Muslim.

Islamic groups said he had criticised the sacred text and lodged complaints with the police.

Ahok has apologised but denied committing blasphemy, which carries a potential five-year prison term.

Last week prosecutors confirmed his case could go to trial.

A rally against Ahok on November 4 turned violent, leaving one man dead and dozens of police and protesters injured.