Jakarta. The chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, Ma'ruf Amin said during another session in Ahok's blasphemy trial on Tuesday (31/01) that the council's official statement — which argued that Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has defamed Islam and the ulemas — had more legitimacy than a fatwa, or edict.
During the eighth session of the Jakarta governor's blasphemy trial, Ma'ruf told the court that MUI issued the official statement at the request of Muslim groups, including the so-called Anti-Blasphemy Forum.
The MUI had formed a team of 20 religious experts to investigate the governor's original speech on Pramuka Island in Jakarta's Thousand Islands district that triggered the blasphemy allegations.
"After investigating, we came to the conclusion that it [Ahok's statement] has indeed defamed the Koran and the ulemas," Ma'ruf told the court.
The trial was once again held at a converted auditorium at the Ministry of Agriculture office in South Jakarta.
"The statement carries more legitimacy than a fatwa, since the deliberations for it involved four commissions and the council's leadership board, not just the edict commission. Many [ulemas] put their thoughts into the statement," he added.
The ulemas had discussed the statement for 11 days in early October last year, Ma'ruf said.
In the statement, MUI, which is made up of 70 leaders of Muslim groups in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, said "Muslims certainly feel that the remarks are an insult against Islam, the Koran and ulemas, since by uttering them he [Ahok] had entered the realm of faith by making a negative judgement on Islamic teachings."
The statement also stressed that the blasphemy allegation is not a petty case, and should be resolved transparently, swiftly and by adhering to the public's sense of justice.
Aside from Ma'ruf, the hearing also featured Jakarta Electoral Commission member Dahlia Umar, plaintiff Ibnu Baskoro and two fishermen from the Thousand Islands – Jaenudin (a.k.a. Panel bin Adim) and Sahbudin (a.k.a. Deni).
The incumbent governor, who is a Christian of Chinese descent, was declared a suspect in the blasphemy case in mid-November last year amid mounting pressure from hardline groups, which staged a series of mass demonstrations to demand his arrest.