Indonesia’s Blasphemy Law Takes Another Christian Victim
By ICC’s Indonesia Correspondent
09/10/2021 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – The list of victims who have been ensnared by Indonesia’s abusive blasphemy law continues to grow. Saifuddin Ibrahim (Abraham Ben Moses), Meliana, or Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as “Ahok,” former Jakarta Governor, only account for some of the victims who were prosecuted for “insulting Islam.”
For someone to be named a suspect for blasphemy, usually it involves unrest in the community. Indeed, the definition of the blasphemy chapter itself is not clear, so in the end, the law becomes like a rubber-stamp chapter that can be imposed on anyone, even if that person has no intention of committing blasphemy. As long as the person’s action is considered disturbing and causes the anger of the mass, then s/he will be viewed as a person who blasphemes religion. In most cases, blasphemy law will only apply to religious minorities in Muslim-majority Indonesia.
Recently, we were shocked by the news of Muhammad Kace, a Christian Youtuber who once followed Islam. Muhamad Kace was reported to the police by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body, and several Islamic groups for allegedly insulting or blaspheming the Islamic faith. One cannot help but notice Kace’s case since he was swiftly arrested and prosecuted not long after he was reported, while many Muslim figures continuously escape from legal entanglement and freely use their Youtube platforms to insult and blaspheme Christianity.
It is true that after Muhammad Kace was arrested, one of the clerics who blasphemed and insulted Christianity, namely Yahya Waloni, was also arrested. However, Yahaya Waloni had long been reported, and nothing was done to him until recently. There are still several Muslim clerics who blaspheme and insult Christianity, such as Abdul Somad, who spoke about crucifixes containing “jin kafir” (“jin” being a term for supernatural entities similar to genies or demons in Islam and “kafir” refers to “infidel,” those who do not believe in Islam), still out and about. In their Youtube videos, they can be seen insulting Christianity and interpret verses in the Bible as they please. However, they are roaming free, and the authorities do not act against them.
With that, it is very clear that the blasphemy law in Indonesia is only sharp to the minority groups and blunt to the majority. Yet, ironically, every citizen should be entitled to the same rights and status in the eyes of the law.
Abdurahman Wahid, familiarly called Gus Dur, the 4th President of Indonesia, once said that the blasphemy law is not in accordance with Pancasila (the Indonesian state philosophy), a form of pluralism and moderation, and tends to be misused as a political weapon.
Even Gus Dur had proposed a judicial review of this blasphemy law, namely Law No. 1 concerning the Prevention of Abuse and/or Blasphemy of Religion. Gus Dur considered this law unnecessary because it interfered with freedom of opinion and caused heavy casualties. However, the request was rejected by the Constitutional Court, which at that time was led by Mahfud MD, now the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs in the Jokowi administration.
As Gus Dur once did, perhaps there needs to be pressure on the current Jokowi government to review and revoke this blasphemy law, which has violated human rights and the Indonesian constitution itself. In addition, this chapter has also been used to criminalize minority religious groups and traditional religions. We need to put an end to this abusive law so there will be no more victims.
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