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Tens of Thousands Rally in Jakarta Ahead of Election 

  • VOA News

Muslim men attend a prayer at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, Feb. 11, 2017. Tens of thousands gathered at the national mosque for the mass prayers urging Indonesians to vote for Muslims in city and district elections being held across the country

Tens of thousands of Indonesians descended on the capital Saturday to hear clerics urge them to vote for Muslim politicians in the city and district elections being held across the country next week.

The crowd at Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque spilled over into the surrounding streets.

The clerics in Jakarta want Muslims to vote out Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the city’s Chinese Christian governor, who is on trial for blasphemy.

Basuki’s political drama began in October when he dismissed his opponents who had cited a Quranic verse that warns against Muslims supporting nonbelievers.

The embattled governor said Jakartans had “been lied to” by the verse in question and remarked, “If you feel you can’t vote for me because you fear you’ll go to hell ... no worries. That’s your personal right.”

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as "Ahok", sits on the defendant's chair during his trial at the North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 13, 2016.
Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as "Ahok", sits on the defendant's chair during his trial at the North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 13, 2016.

Basuki has since apologized and said he never intended to cause offense, but it has done little to placate many Muslims who are enraged that a Muslim-majority city is administered by a Christian.

Saturday is the last day politicians can campaign before Wednesday’s vote.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous majority Muslim nation and has a large Christian minority.

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