The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) said it would not forbid Muslims from taking part in another demonstration against Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, but asked them to prioritize talks with government officials. (Antara Photo/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

Ulema Council Calls on Protesters to Prioritize Talks With Gov't

BY :ALIN ALMANAR

NOVEMBER 22, 2016

Jakarta. Indonesia's top Islamic clerical body said it would not forbid Muslims from taking part in another demonstration against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, but asked them to prioritize talks with government officials.

Plans for the mass protest rally, set to take place in Central Jakarta on Dec. 2, come amid an ongoing police probe into blasphemy allegations against Ahok, who was declared a suspect in the case last week.

Hardline Muslim groups are planning the mass demonstration to demand the arrest of the governor, who is a Christian of Chinese ethnicity.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) called on Muslims to "struggle for their aspirations through democratic means, including lobbying, negotiations and discussions with the executive and legislative."

"Those are likely to be more effective," MUI secretary general Anwar Abbas told the press in Jakarta on Tuesday (22/11).

He also warned Muslims against resorting to violence during next week's mass demonstration and called on them not to take part in the protest rally in the name of the MUI.

"We call on members of the public not to use our attributes, logos, or symbols if they are to press ahead with staging the demonstration," Anwar said.

The MUI also denied that the so-called National Movement to Guard the Fatwas of the Indonesian Ulema Council, or GNPF-MUI, who is organizing the rally, was part of the clerical body. It said the GNPF-MUI appeared to be an ad-hoc organization led by top figures in the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

The MUI issued a statement last month saying Ahok "insulted the Koran, ulemas and Muslims" in public remarks he made in September about a Koranic verse.

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