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Anti-Islam film protest turns violent in Indonesia

Protesters outside the US Embassy in Jakarta yesterday light fires during protests against the American-made film "Innocence of Muslims". Many people in Muslim-dominated Indonesia have been angered by the anti-Islam film. Protesters clashed with police outside the embassy yesterday, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails. Wendra Ajistyatama/The Jakarta Post

Publication Date : 18-09-2012


A rally protesting the controversial movie "Innocence of Muslims" at the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday turned violent when protesters started throwing rocks at the police deployed to safeguard the protest.

The rally was organised by several Islamic mass organisations, including the Islamic Society Forum (FUI) and the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

The protest in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation came after anger over the movie had simmered down in a number of countries, particularly Egypt and Libya, following an investigation into the movie's production by the US government.

The rally's field coordinator, Bernard Ahmad Jabbar, told The Jakarta Post on the phone just before the protest began that the event was aimed at being peaceful with "just a little rampage".

"We plan to stage a long march starting from the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle at 1 p.m. toward the embassy. It's going to be a peaceful protest with actions such as raising banners and burning posters of the movie's director," Jabbar said.

"But there may be a little tossing of things here and there," he said while laughing.

Jakarta Police deputy chief Brig. Gen. Suhardi Alius said later in the afternoon that the "tossing" had resulted in casualties, with seven police officers and several protesters suffering minor injuries.

Alius said that four out of around 400 protesters were detained for carrying dangerous materials.

"The four detained were found in possession of Molotov cocktails and slingshots with marbles as ammunition," he told reporters in front of the embassy, located on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan in Central Jakarta.

The city police's spokesman, Sr. Comr. Rikwanto, said the police had deployed 300 officers prior to the rally and continually added to the number as tensions rose. Separately, Central Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Angesta Romano Yoyol told the Post that 2,000 personnel were on standby for the rally.

The riot erupted at 2:45 p.m. when protesters started burning tires and throwing rocks at police officers. The officers struck back by using tear gas against the protesters, but it failed to calm the mob, who proceeded to assault City Hall near the embassy.

Protesters smashed two large flower pots in front of City Hall and used the broken pieces to attack officers safeguarding the embassy.

The riot did not stop even when Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Untung S. Rajab tried to calm the situation. Tear gas shells were thrown at protesters attacking a police car while the chief tried to deliver his speech. The situation finally began to calm down after 4 p.m.

Jabbar said the rally was aimed to urge the US government to punish filmmaker Sam Bacile, a 52-year-old Israeli-American real estate developer from California.

"According to Islamic law, [the director] must face the death penalty for derogating the Prophet," he said.

"The Innocence of Muslims" has enraged people of Muslim faith in several countries for its depiction of Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, womaniser and madman.

Since it emerged on the Internet, it has prompted violent protests at US embassies in the Middle East. In Libya, the US ambassador and three other staff members were killed when the US consulate in Benghazi was attacked.

Monday's rally was the second protest against the movie at the embassy in Jakarta. Last Friday, hundreds of members of the firebrand organisation, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), staged a rally in front of the US embassy demanding that the movie's director be penalised.

In Cirebon, West Java, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed his appreciation of Muslims in Indonesia who "carried out protests in a measured way without acts that violated the laws".

The President also condemned the filmmaker of the "Innocence of Muslims".

"I am unhappy about the distribution of such a video that I think is a form of a blasphemy against a religion, which in this case is Islam," the President said before hundreds of members of the country's largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

He was presenting a speech at the closing ceremony of NU's 2012 national conference.

"It only takes a few irresponsible culprits to cause difficulties for leaders of many nations, particularly after violent and fatal protests around the globe," Yudhoyono added.

The President said Indonesia would not remain idle in response to such acts that harmed world peace and tolerance.

"When a caricature that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad was made public sometime ago, I wrote an article to condemn it. I and the then Norwegian prime minister initiated an intermedia dialogue to prevent such an act from reoccurring," Yudhoyono said.

He added that the government had begun to consider proposing an international protocol against acts of blasphemy.


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