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Thousands of Muslims protest in Jakarta accusing governor of blasphemy

By Andrew V. Pestano
Indonesian protesters pull a barbwire barricade during a protest against what they're calling a blasphemous remark made by Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as "Ahok," outside the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday. Thousands of protesters staged a rally demanding the Jakarta's governor to be prosecuted for blasphemy, while some called for the governor to be killed. Photo by Mast Irham/EPA
Indonesian protesters pull a barbwire barricade during a protest against what they're calling a blasphemous remark made by Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as "Ahok," outside the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday. Thousands of protesters staged a rally demanding the Jakarta's governor to be prosecuted for blasphemy, while some called for the governor to be killed. Photo by Mast Irham/EPA

JAKARTA, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Up to 200,000 people protested in Jakarta accusing the city's ethnic and religious minority governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is Chinese and Christian, of committing blasphemy against Muslims, police said.

The protest was largely peaceful despite huge crowds, BBC News reported. There have not been reports of any violence, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

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Many hard-line Muslims want the governor, known as Ahok, to be imprisoned for allegedly insulting the Koran. They feel the governor insulted Islam by criticizing a political opponent's use of a verse in the Koran, suggesting voters were being deceived in an edited video transcript.

Some Islamic groups have urged voters not to re-elect Ahok, citing a verse in the Koran that can be interpreted as banning Muslims from living under non-Muslim leadership. Ahok is planning to run for a second term as governor in early 2017.

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Signs seen among the crowd include "Arrest and try Ahok and his cronies dead or alive;" "kill Ahok;" and "kill Ahok for insulting Islam." At least 18,000 police and military personnel were deployed for the Friday protest, police officials said, according to CNN. Officials estimated up to 200,000 Muslims were involved in the demonstration.

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Ahok apologized for the offense his comment caused, adding that he was not criticizing the Koran but criticizing those who used it against him. Authorities have launched a blasphemy investigation into Ahok's comments.

About 100 armed military guards were deployed to guard the governor's residence. About 1 percent of Indonesia's population of 250 million is Chinese. Over 200 million of Indonesians are Muslim.

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