In the two decades since the fall of Indonesian President Suharto’s 32-year reign in 1998, the use of the accusation of “treason” as a governmental tool to quash political opposition gradually reemerged in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
Today, however, those trying to overthrow the leadership are Islamists intent on unraveling the fabric of a pluralistic society.
This situation has led to the debate over freedom of speech and the separation of church and state — or, here, mosque and state.
Four recent rallies in the capital city of Jakarta illustrate the nature of what has become a full-blown controversy. In each case, protesters gathered outside mosques after Friday prayers for what they claim are “spontaneous” demonstrations made necessary by their clerics’ lack of financial resources to plan and stage such events. But evidence collected by Indonesian authorities indicates otherwise.
The first such protest took place on October 14, 2016. Its purpose was to demand that criminal proceedings be launched against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — familiarly known as Ahok — for “blasphemy.”
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