Jakarta protest against governor 'blasphemy' draws thousands

Tens of thousands of hard-line Muslims are marching against the governor of Jakarta, demanding he is prosecuted for blasphemy.

Basuki Tjahja Purnama, a Christian, is the first ethnic Chinese to hold the governor's post in the capital of majority Muslim Indonesia.

Protesters gathered at the Istiqlal Mosque and are heading towards the presidential palace.

Police are bracing for the possibility of religious and racial tensions.

In 1998, a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment led to mobs looting and burning Chinese-owned shops and houses. Ethnic Chinese make up about 1% of Indonesia's population of 250 million people.

Chief of Jakarta police Insp Gen Mochamad Iriawan told the BBC female officers in hijabs would be deployed on the front line of the protest "as a humanistic approach".

"We also have male police officers who are experts in Islamic chanting and will sent them to the street if we need them [to calm the tension]," he said.

About 20,000 security personnel have been deployed for the protest.

Mr Purnama, know as "Ahok", is planning to run for a second term as governor in February 2017.

But some Islamic groups have already urged people not to vote for him, citing a verse from the Quran.

The verse is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim. Others say the context for that verse is a time of war and it should therefore not be interpreted literally.

On 28 September, Mr Purnama, in comments that were filmed, said those using the passage - Surat Almaidah 51 - against him were "lying".

"Ladies and gentlemen, you don't have to vote for me because you've been lied to, with Surat Almaidah 51 and the like. That's your right," he said.

The comments caused outrage because they were seen as criticising a Quranic verse.

Mr Purnama has since apologised but formal complaints were lodged against him by Islamic groups for defamation. He is now being investigated by police.

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