Haedar Nasir, chairman of Muhammadiyah's central executive committee, speaking to journalists about the blasphemy case against Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama in Yogyakarta on Wednesday (16/11). (Antara Photo/Hendra Nurdiyansyah)

Declaration of Ahok as Blasphemy Suspect Eases Muslim Anger

BY :ALIN ALMANAR

NOVEMBER 16, 2016

Jakarta. The naming of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama as a suspect in a blasphemy case on Wednesday (16/11) has eased anger within the Muslim community, with leaders welcoming what they called a "fair" decision.

Ahok is accused of having committed blasphemy over comments he made in a speech to residents of Pramuka Island in Jakarta's Thousand Islands district two months ago. In video footage of the speech, Ahok says nobody should manipulate verses from the Koran for political gain.

Police made their decision to declare him a suspect a day after a heavily scrutinized case exposé, which concluded that Ahok's comments constituted a criminal offense.

The much-anticipated move against the Jakarta governor, who is a Christian of Chinese ethnicity, "was a result of a fair legal process that meets the public sense of justice," Muslim leaders said in a joint statement after the decision.

Police have now upgraded the legal process from a preliminary investigation, which concluded with Tuesday's exposé, to an investigation.

"The police have shown their professionalism and integrity in enforcing the law and upholding justice," Din Syamsuddin, former chairman of Muhammadiyah, the country's second-largest Muslim group, told the media.

"We will continue to monitor the legal process to ensure that it runs its course," he said. "The blasphemy case is a big matter, which has the potential to threaten national unity."

The police's decision on Wednesday comes after mounting pressure from various Muslim groups, which filed multiple police reports against Ahok last month and staged a mass protest rally against him in the capital earlier this month.

The case comes amid the leadup to next year's much-contested Jakarta gubernatorial race in which Ahok is seeking re-election. However, Ahok's status as a suspect does not affect his candidacy.

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