People of good conscience gathered outside the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies at 2pm, 18th May 2017 to vent their frustration at an invite for the Indonesian
vice-president Jusuf Kalla to deliver a lecture on 'Moderate Islam'.
The protest against Islamic extremism comes just a day after Prince Charles
delivered a speech at the inauguration of the new home for the centre, appealing for better 'cultural connectivity' in society and praising the centre's
goals of 'dialogue, understanding and connection'.
The peaceful demonstration which consisted of Indonesian Christians and Buddhists was jointly organised by the British Pakistani Christian
Association after a request for help from Indonesian Christian Mariella Djorghi who learned about the scheduled talk.
Joined by campaign group Christian Voice protesters aimed at highlighting the ongoing persecution of minorities in Indonesia. In particular
the 2 year sentence imposed on the Christian former Governor of Jakarta, Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, on blasphemy charges.
During the demonstration eight security men from the Indonesian Embassy could be seen taking photographs of the protesters. The Indonesian members
believe this action was designed to intimidate them stating that the cruel Government of Indonesia is known for brutality towards dissenters.
While many protesters moved away this brave Indonesian women stood her ground.
Mariella Djorghi, a Catholic from Indonesia and a trained lawyer who helped organise the protest, said:
"My main point is to ask questions to Jusuf Kalla – how he would envisage a moderate Islam in Indonesia. Because at the moment what we have seen is
a Christian governor who has lost a re-election because Muslims went onto the streets with placards quoting a Koranic verse – al Ma'ida 51.'
The verse reads: 'O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is
an ally to them among you - then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.'
Djorghi said: 'Because of that, my belief was that the vote switched. He is a governor who has proven to be highly competent, and he lost to an Islamist
who was openly supported by Jusef Kalla, who should have remained neutral.'
'So what message is this sending to non-Muslims like me? It means that you are not welcome in this country.
'I would not be risking standing here being registered by the intelligence of the embassy so I cannot go home, or whatever they might have in store for
me, if I did not feel passionately about this. Many people are scared because they have families back home. If you can do that to a governor, you can do
anything to anyone else. Why is the governor behind bars and not them?
Djorghi added: 'When I found out that Prince Charles was the patron of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, I thought: "Please resign from that post.
This is not good news for you." It beggars belief.
On the Behest of the BPCA Djorghi, an Indonesian resident from London, has written to Oxford University's Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson regarding Kalla's
invitation,saying that he is not fit to discuss 'moderate Islam'.
British Pakistani Christian Association, has also set up a petition.
The Association's chairman Wilson Chowdhry said:
"I join Mariella and other humanitarians in expressing deep concern for the bias support that the Vice President gave to an Islamist candidate for the Jakarta governorship, for which he was widely criticized.
"Under his watch, Indonesian Muslims are told to choose a Muslim over a non-Muslim governor candidate, using the Qur'an, chapter and verse. The result being that not only did the incumbent Chinese Christian governor lose his re-election, but he was also dragged to court, facing spurious allegations of having insulted the Quran verse quoted by the Muslims.
"His election loss coupled with his two year jail sentence for blasphemy shocked the nation and showed a deeply disturbing trend in Indonesia towards religious discrimination."
Leader Of Christian Voice Stephen Green, who joined protesters, said:
"How the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies can possibly view Vice President Jusuf Kalla qualified to speak on 'Moderate Islam' after his track record and the imprisonment of Basuki Cahaya Purnama defies belief.
"The Patron of the Centre is the Prince of Wales, who has said: 'The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies has done so much to promote and improve our understanding of the Islamic world'. With its invitation of Kalla, we understand the Islamic world of the Oxford Centre only too well."
During a Q&A session after Vice President Kalla's lecture a Muslim student questioned him on the validity of Non-Muslims standing for political positions.
Mr Kalla chose to focus on the Islamist campaign led by his compatriot Anies Baswedan who defeated Former Governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja
Purnama by stirring up religious hatred. In his comments he compared the campaign to the American elections and the campaign of Donald
Trump. Mr Kalla felt that stirring up of hatred based on 'religious similarity' was a valid tool in democracy. Watch video here:
In a very disingenuous speech Vice President Kalla spoke of his personal knowledge of Governor Ashok who he found 'Impulsive and high tempered' laying
the blame for the blasphemy charges on the former Governor himself. A full transcript of Vice President Kalla's speech can be read by clicking (here)
A response back from a spokesperson from Oxford University expressed concern over the imprisonment of Governor Ahok, but explained they have no authority
over OCIS. They felt that in the interest of free speech Vice President Kalla should be allowed to speak and tried to provide assurance that an academic
would ask challenging questions of Mr Kalla - as if this would provide some solace.
An email response was received from an Oxford University spokesperson which can be read below:
"The Vice-Chancellor received your email and has asked me to thank you for it, and to respond on Oxford's behalf.
Professor Richardson has been following recent events in Indonesia with growing concern and considers the conviction and imprisonment of the governor of Jakarta in particular to be deeply worrying.
You may know that the Vice-Chancellor has no authority over OCIS, which is an independent centre, and she is not attending the event in question.
On the broader point of speakers and platforms, even if Professor Richardson had the powers to intervene, the Vice-Chancellor's belief in the principle of free speech would preclude cancelling the lecture. We understand, however, that there is a very good likelihood of the speaker being challenged by academics and others in attendance, and we have also been notified of plans for a demonstration. This is wholly consistent with Oxford's public position on freedom of speech, which states that:
Free speech is the lifeblood of a university. It enables the pursuit of knowledge. It helps us approach truth. It allows students, teachers and researchers to become better acquainted with the variety of beliefs, theories and opinions in the world. Recognising the vital importance of free expression for the life of the mind, a university may make rules concerning the conduct of debate but should never prevent speech that is lawful.
Inevitably, this will mean that members of the University are confronted with views that some find unsettling, extreme or offensive. The University must therefore foster freedom of expression within a framework of robust civility. Not all theories deserve equal respect. A university values expertise and intellectual achievement as well as openness. But, within the bounds set by law, all voices or views which any member of our community considers relevant should be given the chance of a hearing. Wherever possible, they should also be exposed to evidence, questioning and argument. As an integral part of this commitment to freedom of expression, we will take steps to ensure that all such exchanges happen peacefully. With appropriate regulation of the time, place and manner of events, neither speakers nor listeners should have any reasonable grounds to feel intimidated or censored. It is this understanding of the central importance and specific roles of free speech in a university that will underlie the detailed procedures of the University of Oxford.
Mariella Djorghi surrounded by secret services agents from Indonesia