Professor admits misquoting Christian governor in Jakarta after blasphemy protests turn violent

(REUTERS/Beawiharta)Members of hardline Muslim groups attend a protest against Jakarta's incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian running in the upcoming election, in Jakarta, Indonesia, November 4, 2016.

Buni Yani, a former communications professor at the London School in central Jakarta, has admitted that he manipulated the words of the Christian governor of Jakarta to make it seem like he insulted Islam.

Hardline Islamic groups have warned against voting for Jakarta Gov. Tjahaja "Ahok" Basuki Purnama in the coming Indonesian elections on the basis of verse 51 from the fifth chapter of the Koran, al Ma'ida.

Some have interpreted the verse as instructions for Muslims not to live under the leadership of non-Muslims while others say that it only applies in the time of war.

Purnama issued a statement in which he warned that the Quranic verse was being misused to tell Muslims not to vote for him.

"Do not believe everything what people say... because often you are deceived by using verse 51 of Al Maidah (the fifth surah of the Qur'an)," he said.

On Nov. 4, tens of thousands of Indonesians marched on the streets calling for the arrest of Purnama for "slandering of Islam." The event resulted in violent clashes, with at least 160 protesters and 79 police officers injured.

According to Asia News, Yani confessed that he had misrepresented Purnama's statement and omitted a word "by mistake." By omitting the word "using" from the sentence, it seemed like the governor was saying that the verse from the Quran is deceiving Muslims. The professor, however, refused to admit that he was behind the protests in Jakarta.

Many observers believe that the case against Purnama falls apart due to Yani's admission. A petition against the professor has gathered more than 100,000 signatures calling on the police to charge him with moral and intellectual dishonesty.

"His actions are a provocation that degenerated into fury among most Muslim communities," it stated.

Purnama, the frontrunner in the 2017 electoral race, is a key ally of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The president canceled his trip to Australia following the violent clashes.

Days before the protest, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose son is running against Purnama, called for the prosecution of the governor to appease the Islamist opposition.


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