Jerusalem / Thousands of Indonesians and Malaysians erupt in protests over US recognition of Jerusalem

By: Johanna Chisholm - Posted on: December 11, 2017 | Current Affairs

Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel drew thousands to rally in front of the US embassy in both Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur

Protesters burn an effigy of US president Donald Trump during a rally held in response to Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as capital of Israel, in front of the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur Photo: Fazry Ismail/EPA

Thousands more people have joined protests taking place in cities across Southeast Asia over the past weekend, gathering to voice their strong condemnation of US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to formally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Breaking with decades of US foreign policy with Israel, Trump’s announcement on Wednesday marked a controversial shift that would see the US not only accepting Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, but would also see the US moving their embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

The protests in Indonesia, the Wall Street Journal reported, attracted more than 5,000 people to gather in front of the US embassy in the capital city of Jakarta.

And on Friday, Today Online reported that there were approximately 1,000 people who took part in a demonstration that began after Friday prayers and had the participants march from the nearby mosque to the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur. At this particular demonstration, protesters were described by the Jerusalem Post as chanting anti-US slogans while also burning an effigy of the US president.

The Muslim world outside of Southeast Asia has also erupted in large protests against the US president’s pronouncement, with large demonstrations being witnessed throughout the weekend in Muslim-majority countries like Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and Lebanon.

In Rabat, the capital of Morocco, there was a protest that was reported to have rallied tens of thousands of participants, Channel News Asia reported.

Indonesian Muslim activists hold pro-Palestinian placards during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as capital of Israel, outside of the US embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, 10 December 2017 Photo: Adi Weda/EPA

This marked break with US foreign policy has drawn criticism from the international community, including both Muslim and non-Muslim communities. The general consensus from these groups has noted that this recent shift has the potential to destabilise the path for peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, both of whom lay claim to Jerusalem as their respective capitals.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said during an interview with CNN that the move might actually “compromise” the US’s involvement in finding a peaceful agreement between the two.

Israel has long contended that the entire holy city is their rightful capital; while the Palestinian Territories continue to hold out hope that East Jerusalem will one day be named the capital of their independent state.

The US has, until now, only recognised Tel Aviv as the country’s capital, which is where the current US embassy is located.

Two of the more heated reactions within Southeast Asia came, not surprisingly, from regions with some of the area’s largest Muslim populations.

Indonesia is the country with the largest population of Muslim people in the world. And with Palestine also being one of the first countries to recognise the Muslim-majority country’s independence in 1945, it has led them to become a natural sympathiser for the Palestinian cause.

Within Malaysia, another Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation, premier Najib Razak made the decision to postpone a meeting with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong set for next week after being called to attend an emergency meeting with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The OIC meeting will take place in Turkey on 13 December after the country’s president, Recept Tayyip Erdogan, summoned leaders from across the Muslim world to discuss the US decision to name Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In a press conference, Najib revealed that the Turkish president was keen to have Malaysia’s voice heard in the OIC meetings.

“I have the annual consultation with the Singapore Prime Minister, and called Lee Hsien Loong to ask for his understanding as this affects not only my faith as a Muslim but the faith of all Muslims,” the premier said, as was first reported by the New Straits Times.

Muslim leaders from the Arab League, a regional organisation of Arabic-speaking countries, called on Washington to withdraw their country’s decision on Saturday.