Farouk Arnaz, Markus Junianto Sihaloho, Jakarta – The National Police has vowed to launch a cross-border manhunt to capture Joseph Paul Zhang, an Indonesian national who allegedly caused a stir in the Muslim majority country by declaring himself as a prophet, a claim that could be considered blasphemy under Indonesia's law.
Joseph has been publishing provocative videos on his Youtube channel, containing alleged insults directed at the Muslims at risk of flaming another interreligious tension – not unlike ones during the sectarian-charged elections in the past few years – that the country has yet to resolve.
"He will be found, and we will coordinate with every [authorities]," Insp. Gen Argo Yuwono, the National Police's spokesman, said on Sunday.
Separately, Comr. Gen Agus Andrianto, the head of the police's Criminal Investigation Unit (Bareskrim), told Antara news agency that the police suspected Joseph has no longer in Indonesia.
Immigration data showed Joseph had left Indonesia since January 2018, Agus said, without revealing his destination. Still, the police would work with foreign police where Joseph currently lives to bring him home, Agus said.
"The cooperation mechanism with foreign police could work if the country he lives in today agrees to deport him," Agus said.
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), an Islamic cleric organization partly funded by the government, and the Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Muslim organization, said Joseph had made statements that violated the rules related to religious blasphemy.
"We clearly condemn the uproar incited by Joseph Paul Zhang who had insulted the Prophet Muhammad and insulted the teachings of Islam," Anwar Abbas, MUI's deputy chairman, said on Sunday.
MUI also urged the police to take firm action against Joseph.
The clerics' organization also asked Muslims to be calm and entrust the police to resolve the case. He said that the National Police Chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo had told the clerics that the police would follow up on this case, ready to take steps.
"We should give the highest respect and appreciation to the Chief of Police, who has immediately given instructions to his subordinates to arrest the perpetrator. For that, we wait," he said.
Helmy Faishal Zaini, the secretary-general of NU's executive board, said the institutions condemn Joseph's antics. NU also repeated MUI's calls, asking Muslims to practice restraints.
"We also ask Muslims to remain calm and not be provoked to do things that are outside the corridors of the applicable law," said Helmy.
Indonesia's Criminal Code (KUHP) prohibits blasphemy, subjecting those deliberately spreading hatred, hostility, or contempt against religions to up to five years in prison if they are found guilty.