Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The authorities in Bantul Regency (Yogyakarta special province), central Java, removed from office Yulius Suharto, head of Pajangan sub-district, following a massive lobbying campaign launched on social media by Islamic extremist groups and radical Muslims who targeted him because he is Catholic.
The decision to dismiss the sub-district chief was made on Monday as a result of the unrelenting campaign against the official (pictured).
In a statement, the authorities state that the decision is backed by scores of officials and citizens in Pajangan, ostensibly opposed to a Catholic holding the top office in the civilian administration of a predominantly Muslim area.
Bantu Regent Suharsono noted that Yulius Suharto’s removal was done in accordance with the law, in response to demands from regency and municipal leaders. Most officials welcomed the decision to remove the official because he was not Muslim.
Yulius Suharto is expected to be transferred to Bambanglipuro, a sub-district where most people are not Muslim, local sources said.
Last October, Pajangan saw fierce protests by Islamic extremists against the installation of a large bust of Jesus in front of the St Yakobus Alfeus Church.
Extremists were particularly incensed by the presence at the ceremony of women wearing hijab. When the images of veiled women at a Christian ceremony went viral, many of Indonesia’s extremists and Jihadi movements were enraged.
Yulius Suharto’s appointment as Pajangan sub-district chief was made on 30 December; his removal will come into effect on 30 January.
Yulius Suharto is not the only Catholic official in the crosshair of Islamic extremists. In recent weeks, the case of Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, governor of Jakarta, has been front-page news.
Ahok is on trial for blasphemy for allegedly insulting the Qurʾān and Islam. At a rally in September, he supposedly quoted from the 51st verse of Al Maidah, the fifth surah (chapter) in the Qurʾān, to ask Muslims not to use it “the wrong way”. The verse in question advises Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as friends.
As one of the few Indonesian political leaders to fight for freedom of conscience, the governor last June opposed the obligation imposed on female students in Jakarta to wear the Islamic veil.
In July 2015, he got involved in the struggle for the civil rights of the Ahmadi minority, which is considered heretical by majority Sunnis.