An Overview of the Jakarta Riot

People from various Indonesian Islamic organizations came to Jakarta to protest Ahok’s controversial statement. (courtesy of orbitindo.com)

By Adelia Sindunata and Madeline Kimberly

Indonesia is known to be a free country. Indonesians possess a very diverse range of ethnicities and religions.

Indonesia is also famous for government corruption. People don’t trust the country nor the people who run it.

The current president, Joko Widodo, has been in the presidency for two years, and he is said to be the new face of Indonesia — a better, more open president.

Indonesia is an Islamic country but it’s accepting of other religions.

Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia and the mayor is a Christian Chinese-Indonesian, which raised lots of questioning eyebrows from the general population. His name is Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as “Ahok.” He is the first non-Islamic governor of Jakarta and he is currently running as a governor candidate.

Ahok has proven to be a good leader, committed to making a better Indonesia, though many Indonesians have trouble adjusting to his sterner ways of leading.

Purnama is well-known as a straight-to-the-point person, which some people find disturbing. Recently his words sparked a controversy.

It began with a video clip of him saying that Koran verses were used by Islamic groups to discourage voters from electing non-Islamic leaders, recorded on his campaign in September. This quote sparked anger, especially within the Islamic groups mentioned.

Purnama’s words were a trigger to Indonesians who never quite accepted of his leadership, due to his background. According to Jawa Pos, an Indonesian news company, The Council of Indonesian Ulama (Muslim scholars) said that his words were “blaspheming the Koran.” Tens of thousands of people from around Indonesia came to Jakarta for a “peaceful protest.”

This peaceful protest turned out to be one of the biggest Indonesian riots of the 21st century. Cars were surrounded and burned. Stores were trashed. Violence was all around.

Shoreline has quite a few international students originating from Indonesia. Indonesian students are continents away from their home but the impact of this riot can still be felt here.

One of the Indonesian students, Ruben Wiryokusuma from Makassar, Indonesia, said, “People in Indonesia aren’t yet open-minded.”

Another student, Natasha Sutantyo from Jakarta, said “It’s not surprising.”

A recent BBC article, published on Nov. 16, reported that Purnama has been named as the suspect of blasphemy, which is illegal in Indonesia.

“Well, it is predictable that Ahok [Purnama] will be a suspect,” said Wiryokusuma. “However, if the police don’t name him as the suspect, the conflict will never cool down since people will keep protesting.”

Currently, Purnama is still under investigation. As reported by BBC, if police find him guilty, Ahok will face up to five years in prison. However, Ahok is still running in the election, which will take place in February.

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