Indonesia police, Muslim leaders aim for ‘super peaceful’ rally

National Police Chief General Karnavianm, Chairman of MUI Ma'ruf Amin, Chairman of Islamic Defenders Front Rizieq and and cleric Gymnastiar shake hands after giving a news conference in Jakarta

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s police chief said that a rally to be held by Muslim groups on Friday calling for the ouster of Jakarta’s Christian governor would be “super peaceful” and confined to a park to help prevent a repeat of protest violence earlier this month.

More than 100,000 Muslims, led by hardliners, took to the streets on Nov. 4 to protest against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is accused of insulting the Koran.

One person was killed and more than 100 were wounded when the protest, the biggest in the city in recent years, briefly turned violent, and police fired tear gas and water cannon.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and is home to Christian and Hindu communities.

National Police Chief Tito Karnavian said authorities had agreed with organizers that the rally would be held in a park in central Jakarta, rather than on streets running through traffic-clogged central Jakarta.

“We will prepare everything, so we hope everything will be orderly and super peaceful,” Karnavian told a news conference.

In a sign of greater coordination between authorities and protest organizers, Muslim leaders also attended the news conference.

Habib Rizieq, the head of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a hardline group backing the recent rallies, said it wanted the governor to be arrested immediately but pledged the demonstration would be peaceful.

Karnavian said he hoped that other groups, such as trades unions, would delay protests planned for the same day and that no third party would try to disrupt the demonstration.

President Joko Widodo has blamed “political actors” for fanning violence without naming anyone and the police chief has also said some demonstrators may try to use the rallies to storm parliament.

The trigger for the recent religious tensions was a comment that Jakarta governor Purnama, the first Christian and ethnic Chinese in the job, made about his opponents’ use of the Koran in political campaigning.

Police have named Purnama a suspect in the blasphemy probe. He faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Police have concluded their investigation and given the dossier to the Attorney General’s office, which will decide whether to proceed.

Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, is running for re-election in February against two Muslim candidates. He denies any wrongdoing but has apologized for his comments.

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; EDD)