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Indonesian Islamists Protest Rise of Christian to Jakarta Governor

Members of hardline Islamic groups, including the Islamic Defenders Front, protest to show their displeasure over incoming Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is an ethnic Chinese Christian, in Jakarta, Sept. 24, 2014.

A hardline Indonesian Islamic group has staged a demonstration against the expected elevation of a Chinese Christian to the post of Jakarta governor next month.

In front of the regional legislative building on Wednesday, about 200 members of the Islamic Defenders Front [FPI] warned against the appointment of Basuki Tjahaya Purnama because of his religion.

More than 300 police were deployed for the rally, but there were no reports of clashes or violence.

Basuki, an ethnic Chinese Christian, known popularly as Ahok, is currently deputy governor. He is slated to take the top post when current Governor Joko Widodo is sworn in as president next month.

One of the FPI speakers tells VOA's Indonesian service that Ahok does not deserve to be the governor.

"Forbidden, to have an infidel as the head of Jakarta … Ahok Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, we reject him to be the governor of Jakarta because he has no moral ethics."

The deputy governor, however, said he is not worried.

"FPI has the rights to protest. That’s fine. For me not being a governor is also fine," said Basuki. "But, the fact is, the minute Governor Widodo is sworn in as the president, automatically I’m the governor. FPI is only a small group in this republic that can't accept the facts of life. The people don’t want to be bothered with [this issue] anymore."

He added the protest may have more to do with politics than religion or ethnicity.

"There is the possibility of a political interest behind this demonstration. The police, with its intelligence agency, could check who is paying for the demonstration. I know who they are," said Basuki.

He would not say who he suspects is behind the protest.

Constitutional expert Refly Harun told VOA the Jakarta regional legislature has no authority to reject Ahok as governor because a 2004 law states he can automatically move up once the governor leaves office.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.

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