Vigils held for imprisoned Indonesian Christian leader


Nightly candlelight vigils have been held in cities across Indonesia since Tuesday when the governor of the capital Jakarta, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, was found guilty and sentenced to two years prison.

Indonesians abroad also held vigils in cities including Amsterdam, Toronto and Melbourne, Australia.

Months of huge protests against Ahok by Islamic hardliners and the unexpectedly severe sentence have undermined Indonesia’s reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam.

But a strong backlash has also emerged, led by moderate Muslims who worry that conservative Islamists are wrecking Indonesia’s tradition of religious tolerance.

While most people in Indonesia practise a moderate form of Islam, the influence of radicals has been growing – particularly after mass protests last year against Ahok which were led by hardliners.

“Islam is different from how the Islamic Defenders Front portrays it,” said Mr Mohammad Nuruzzaman, head of strategic research for Ansor, a moderate Muslim youth movement that has been working with the police to break up hardline Muslim gatherings.

Nuruzzaman compared the radical groups to the Indonesian Communist Party, a bogeyman from Indonesia’s past.

“The goal of communists and those who support the caliphate are similar – both want all countries in the world to be run under one system,” he said.

In another move last week, police in East Java, apparently acting on the urging of moderate Muslims or nationalists, shut down a planned university event featuring Mr Felix Siauw, a Chinese Indonesian convert to Islam who has become a major hardline preacher.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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