Indonesian Blasphemy Laws Threaten Jakarta Governor

Jakarta Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama gestures to visitors inside a courtroom during his trial
Jakarta Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama gestures to visitors inside a courtroom during his trial in Jakarta on Jan. 3, 2017. The North Jakarta District Court has ruled that witness testimony will be closed to the media in the blasphemy trial of the capital's minority Christian governor. Irwan Rismawan / Tribun News Pool Photo via AP
Jakarta Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama gestures to visitors inside a courtroom during his trial
Jakarta Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama gestures to visitors inside a courtroom during his trial in Jakarta on Jan. 3, 2017. The North Jakarta District Court has ruled that witness testimony will be closed to the media in the blasphemy trial of the capital's minority Christian governor. Irwan Rismawan / Tribun News Pool Photo via AP

Indonesian Blasphemy Laws Threaten Jakarta Governor

The governor of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta is facing a heated trial.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by the nickname "Ahok," is the first ethnic-Chinese Indonesian to hold an important elected office in Indonesia since the 1960s. Though Ahok is Christian, Indonesia is a majority Muslim country with very strict laws requiring all citizens to hold theistic beliefs. The rising Islamist factions in the government which hope to tighten Indonesia’s moral and religious laws are challenging Ahok under the country’s blasphemy laws. 

The trial threatens both Ahok’s re-election and the country’s largely pluralist convention. 

We discuss Indonesia’s blasphemy laws and the rise of religious fundamentalism there with journalist Ted Fishman. He’s the author of China Inc. and Shock of Gray. Fishman just returned after spending four months in Indonesia.