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Jakarta braces for mass protest today

Jakarta is gearing up for a mass rally today as thousands of conservative Muslims are responding to a call by the Muslim People Forum to demand President Joko Jokowi Widodo to fire incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki Ahok Purnama accused of blasphemy, The Jakarta Post Online reported on Friday.

The rally will start from Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Central Jakarta right after Friday prayer and will end in front of the State Palace. It will pass the US embassy, Merdeka Selatan, the City Hall and the Horse Statue.

FUI expected at least 100,000 people to join the rally, but police said the number would be much less.

The FUI has ensured that the protest would not turn violent as the participants have no intentions other than to ask Jokowi to sack Ahok, said FUI secretary-general Muhammad Al Khaththath.

After the end of the rally, he said protesters would gather at a mosque to show their support for a Muslim to be the next governor of Jakarta.

Two of the country's largest Muslim organizations, Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah as well as the MUI itself have denounced the rally as unnecessary.

MUI chairman Maruf Amin, after a meeting with Jokowi on Thursday, asked everyone to wait for the court's verdict on Ahok's blasphemy case, expected in May.

Jakarta police have coordinated with the national police and the military to secure area around the State Palace as a precaution against an outbreak of violence.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)