Accounting for a Riot: Religious Identity, Denying One's Prejudice, and the Tool of Blasphemy


  • Idhamsyah Eka Putra
  • Wolfgang Wagner
  • Peter Holtz
  • Any Rufaedah


This paper presents an analysis of interviews of participants in a political manifestation in Indonesia about the reasons for the rally and the resulting riot. The rally was held in the middle of the Jakarta gubernatorial election, against a non-Muslim incumbent who was accused of having insulted the Quran. We argue that there is a deep relationship between social identities and religion, which has implications for societal togetherness and political freedom. Using a snowball technique, we interviewed 16 Muslims who had participated in this rally. The findings suggest that 1) even though the rally was held in the middle of an election, the demonstrators denied that the rally was politically motivated; 2) Those demonstrators who thought that intruders had infiltrated the rally, maintained that the intruders are to be held responsible for any violence, but not the ‘actual’ participants. 3) Interviewees claimed that their actions were not motivated by anti-Chinese prejudice, although traces of racist thinking can be found in their statements. The findings are discussed before the background of social representations, social identity, theories of collective action, and the black sheep effect.