JAKARTA/KUALA LUMPUR – Thousands of protesters in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia joined rallies on Friday (Dec 8) to condemn Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as authorities tightened security outside U.S. embassies.
Leaders in both Asian countries have joined a global chorus of voices condemning U.S. President Donald Trump’s move.
Several thousand protesters, some shouting anti-U.S. slogans and burning an effigy of Trump, gathered in front of the American embassy in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
In Indonesia, hundreds of protesters mostly clad in white were arriving outside the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, capital of the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country. Some wore checkered scarves and waved Palestinian flags, while others shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).
“We have prepared personnel and patrols to secure the U.S. embassy. We are expecting between 500 and 1,000 demonstrators,” said Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono.
The U.S. embassy in Jakarta advised its citizens to avoid areas where there were demonstrations and said its consulate in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya had suspended public services on Friday.
Indonesia has been a long-running supporter of the two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and there have been public demonstrations in support of Palestine in recent years.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday urged the United States to reconsider its decision and instructed his foreign minister to summon the U.S. ambassador for an explanation.
In Malaysia, leaders from the ruling party United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) and the popular right wing Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), both of which represent the majority ethnic Malay-Muslims, led the rally and representatives of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas are expected to join.
Protests are also expected in South Asia. Pakistan’s major Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami has announced rallies in all major cities after Friday prayers.
Protests have already broken out in the West Bank and the Gaza strip as the Islamist group Hamas urged Palestinians to launch a fresh uprising against Israel.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest barriers to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace. Its eastern sector was captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of an independent state they seek.