Blasphemy is a criminal offence in Indonesia and dozens of people have been convicted in the last decade, some sent to prison for as long as five years.
At least 200,000 Muslims poured into Jakarta on Friday to demand that the Christian governor of the city be jailed after allegedly insulting the Qur’an.
According to ABC News, the protest ended peacefully, though 10 people were arrested. A similar demonstration held in November turned violent, with one person killed and dozens injured.
The protesters were calling for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is known as Ahok, to be arrested following a complaint of blasphemy lodged against him in October.
Ahok, who is an an ethnic Chinese Christian, is alleged to have delivered a speech in September during which he accused his rivals of using the Qur’an to deceive voters. This speech was then posted online, where his words were edited to make it look as though he was directly criticising the Islamic holy book. The Islamic Defenders Front, a hard-line group that campaigns for Sharia law, demanded his arrest.
Police have confirmed they are investigating the allegation and Ahok is not allowed to leave the country, though he has not been detained.
According to Reuters, a sea of protesters dressed in white today filled downtown Jakarta, chanting, praying and holding banners demanding that Ahok is jailed.
President Joko Widodo, who has accused hardliners of using the anger over Ahok’s alleged blasphemy to destabilise his government, addressed the rally.
“Thank you and safe travels on your return from where you came from. God bless you,” he told the crowd.
Ahok, a long-time ally of the President, is running for re-election in February against two Muslim candidates.
The contest has generated high political tension for weeks, with rumours of plots to undermine Widodo and scupper his chances of winning a second term in 2019.
Indonesia has the world’s biggest Muslim population but recognizes six religions and is home to dozens of ethnic groups, some of which follow traditional beliefs.