A top Christian politician in the world’s largest Muslim nation has been jailed for making supposedly blasphemous comments.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta, was given a two-year prison sentence on Tuesday. He is pictured above.
Basuki, known by the nickname “Ahok”, was a rare Christian leader in a country where more than 90% of the population follow Islam.
Indonesia is usually held up as an example of a nation with a large Muslim population (some 200 million, more than any other single nation) that nonetheless has a tolerant, secular government.
However, this characterization has been stretched to the limit by Basuki’s trial, which his allies say was politically motivated.
He was convicted of criminal blasphemy for insulting the Koran – simply for disagreeing with an interpretation used against him in his campaign for re-election.
The dispute was over the interpretation of Al Maidah 51 verse, which advises Muslims “do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies”.
Rivals of Basuki told their supporters this meant they couldn’t vote for him, and were bound by their faith to back a Muslim instead.
Basuki tried to argue that the verse doesn’t apply to electoral politics – but in the process was accused of insulting the Islamic holy book.
Public outrage surged after an edited video of his comments circulated, which allies say was deliberately cut to falsely imply he was attacking the Koran.
Analysts fear that such a public punishment of a prominent non-Muslim figure will drive people of other faiths out of public life in the country.
Speaking to CNN, Greg Fealy, associate professor of Indonesian politics at the Australian National University, said: “If you were a non-Muslim and you were considering a career in public life, you’re probably more likely to think twice about that.”