November 18, 2016 / 10:38 AM / 3 years ago

Thousands of Indonesians expected to rally against rising intolerance

Members of hardline Muslim groups hold a big national flag as they 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. REUTERS/Beawiharta

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Thousands of Indonesians are expected to rally on Saturday against what they see as growing racial and religious intolerance in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

Religious leaders, human right groups and other organizations will join the parade in central Jakarta, spokeswoman Umi Azalea said by telephone.

The movement was not political but aimed at “celebrating Indonesia’s diversity”, Azalea said.

“Indonesia has so many religions, cultures and ethnicities. Yet now we are seeing some groups that are forcing their own will, and that is very worrying.”

Indonesian police said on Wednesday they would investigate a complaint by Muslim groups that the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, had insulted Islam.

The decision has stoked concerns about rising hardline Islamic sentiment in the country of 250 million people and is also seen by some analysts as a blow to democracy.

More than 100,000 Muslims protested against Purnama earlier this month. Police fired tear gas and water cannon to quell the protest.

There are also signs of rising religious tension elsewhere in Indonesia. Last Sunday, police arrested a suspected militant who threw an explosive device at a church in the eastern island of Borneo.

Reporting by Eveline Danubrata; Editing by Nick Macfie

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