There has been a great deal of nervous speculation over the last two weeks about another rally against Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama being planned for this Friday, December 2. After the massive protest that took place on November 4, police have argued that another demonstration was unnecessary since Ahok had been named a suspect in his case. Police even issued a ban on another protest that would block the capital’s main streets, but the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the driving force behind the protests, declared the demonstration would still take place, including Friday prayers on the major thoroughfares of Jalan Thamrin and Sudirman, in flagrant disregard of the police.
It looked like a major conflict between police and protesters (who FPI claim could number up to 3 million) was inevitable, possibly resulting in more violence like the kind that took place during the Nov 4 demo after nightfall. But members of the police and FPI just held a joint press conference this afternoon to declare that the Dec 2 demo would be moved from the streets to the park surrounding the National Monument (Monas), hopefully reducing the possibility of more violence taking place.
“Earlier, we planned hold the ‘Action in Defense of Islam III’ at the Hotel Indonesia Roundabout, but the police have provided an alternative involving a Friday prayer at Istiqlal, and we finally agreed on holding the rally in the the field surrounding Monas,” said Habib Rizieq, the grand imam and leader of FPI, during the press conference as quoted by BeritaSatu, adding once again that the demo would be “super peaceful”.
National Police Chief Tito Karnavian, who also spoke at the press conference, said that he hoped that the demonstration would indeed be peaceful so as not to disturb public order.
Many Islamic groups such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia and the world’s largest independent Islamic organization, have denounced the anti-Ahok protests as being exploited by political groups that want to see Indonesia turned into an Islamic state. The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), which issued the fatwa declaring Ahok guilty of blasphemy and legitimizing the previous protests, rescinded their official support for the protests last week, recommending that people voice their opinions through other avenues instead.