FEATURE: Thousands of protesters take to the streets in Asian cities

Francis Chan, Trinna Leong
Protesters burning an effigy of US President Donald Trump as they marched towards the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS


JAKARTA/KUALA LUMPUR (The Straits Times/ANN) - Rallies were held to condemn Trump's move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. 

Protesters rallied in Muslim-majority Asian cities yesterday (Dec 8) to voice their anger over a controversial decision by United States President Donald Trump to reverse a longstanding policy and recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Pakistan yesterday, echoing condemnation from many world leaders who said that Mr Trump's decision could have grave repercussions for security and stability, as well as derail counter-terrorism efforts.

In Kuala Lumpur, more than 1,000 people, led by Malaysian political parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia, thronged the main thoroughfare of Jalan Tun Razak to demand that Mr Trump retract the decision.

Chanting "Long Live Palestine! Long Live Islam", the crowd of protesters held up anti-Trump and anti-Zionist banners as they marched down one of the city's busiest roads, bringing traffic to a standstill. An effigy of Mr Trump was set on fire.

"Mr President, this is an illegal announcement. Jerusalem is an occupied territory," Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said before the crowd. "You must not even step foot into Jerusalem and make that the capital of Israel."

In Jakarta, the turnout was lower than expected, after a planned street march from the Palestinian Embassy to the US mission was cancelled because the police refused to issue a permit for it. Among the protesters were members of the Al Aqsa Working Group, the United Development Party (PPP) political party and the Islamic Defenders Front.

PPP members were the first to gather outside the US Embassy in Jakarta from about 10am local time, carrying placards that read, "Jerusalem is not Israel's capital" and "We are with Palestine".

The crowd slowly grew to a few hundred after Friday prayers.

The demonstrations were relatively muted compared with protests in the past. Last year, nearly 10,000 people in Kuala Lumpur protested against the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, while Jakarta saw tens of thousands of people rally against former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy against Islam.

Meanwhile in Singapore, the sermon delivered at Friday prayers at all mosques called for peace, tranquillity and security in the world, including in the Middle East, and asked for guidance in finding peaceful solutions to conflicts.

In Bangladesh, about 3,000 people gathered in front of the main mosque in the capital Dhaka to protest, Reuters reported.

Smaller protests broke out in Pakistan's major cities, including Lahore and Peshawar, as well as in Kashmir, the divided Muslim-majority region claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and declared the entire city as its capital in 1980, a move that was condemned by the international community. Most countries call for a two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Mr Trump's move left many angry US allies struggling to find a diplomatic response, with an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council scheduled for yesterday.

Malaysian opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan also handed over a memorandum of protest to the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Mr Khairy handed a letter that said the move would "intensify the radicalisation of extremists and further create instability in the Middle East".