Indonesian police on Wednesday named the minority Christian governor of the country’s capital as a suspect in a blasphemy investigation in a major test of the Muslim-majority nation’s reputation for religious toleration. Earlier this month the capital Jakarta was rocked by a massive protest by conservative Muslims against the governor. One person died and dozens were injured in rioting. Police announced at a press conference that the popular governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, cannot leave the country while the investigation is underway.
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The accusation of blasphemy against Ahok, an ethnic Chinese and Christian who is an ally of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, has galvanized Jokowi’s political opponents in the Muslim-majority nation of 250 million.
The Islamic Defenders Front, a vigilante group that wants to impose Shariah law, is demanding Ahok’s arrest after a video circulated online in which he joked to an audience about a passage in the Quran that could be interpreted as prohibiting Muslims from accepting non-Muslims as leaders. The governor has apologized for the comment.
Ahok, who is seeking a second term as Jakarta governor, is popular with the city’s middle class, but has made enemies from a tough stance against corruption and an urban renewal program that has evicted thousands of the city’s poorest from slums.
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