ASIA/INDONESIA - Christian governor stands trial: a test for democracy in Indonesia

Wednesday, 14 December 2016 politics   islam   political islam   blasphemy   democracy   justice   religious minorities  


Jakarta (Agenzia Fides) - The Christian governor of Jakarta shed tears yesterday, 13 December during the hearing in court, on the first day of the trial in which he is accused of blasphemy. The trial will continue with the next hearing on December 20, when prosecutors will respond to the statements issued by him.
"I am so sad to be accused of having insulted Islam because it means that I have defamed my Muslim adoptive parents, as well as brothers and sisters whom I love very much", said Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama "Ahok", visibly moved during the hearing held before the district Court in North Jakarta.
"Ahok" - who is listed as a candidate for the upcoming governorship elections to be held on February 15, 2017 - told the judges that he had no intention of insulting Muslim scholars or ulama and would never want to offend Islam because he has always had a harmonious relationship with Muslims since his childhood, attending Muslim schools and Muslim friends who he considers "his family".
The man recalls that his adoptive parents are Muslims. "Being accused of insulting Islam, for me means being accused of defaming my Muslim family", said Ahok in tears.
The governor also mentioned the various programs that he promoted, in his political life, in favor of Muslims, implemented under his leadership as governor of Jakarta, a position he took over as successor to Joko Widodo, of whom he was deputy, when he was elected president of the nation. During his mandate, Ahok built several mosques throughout the capital, granting employees of mosques low-cost housing and special days of leave in order to make the pilgrimage to Mecca; also during the month of Ramadan (Muslim fasting), he allowed all the Muslims who work in public offices to return home earlier so they could eat and pray with their families.
Ahok explained to the judges that the words spoken on 27 September were not an insult to the Qur'an: "I had no intention to misinterpret the Sura 51"Al Maidah" or commit blasphemy. In my statement, I referred to some politicians who had abused that text, initiating unfair competition for the upcoming regional elections".
During his trial, broadcast live on TV, hundreds of members of Islamic groups gathered outside the court calling for Ahok’s arrest. In other areas of the capital, some supporters of the governor gathered to pray in assemblies controlled by the police.
Fr. Benny Susetyo, secretary of the National Council of the "Setara Intitute for democracy and peace", told Fides that Ahok’s trial "is a test for Indonesia's democracy: it represents a test to find out whether the Constitution can be applied or is dominated and defeated by public pressure. And it is also a test for the police, called to enforce the Constitution". (PP-PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/12/2016)