ASIA/INDONESIA - Civil society: abolish the blasphemy law, as pro-Ahok demonstrations multiply

Friday, 12 May 2017 islam   political islam   blasphemy   civil society   religious minorities   human rights  

Bangkok (Agenzia Fides) - "Indonesia should seriously examine the implementation of the Law on blasphemy and abolish it. The government needs to develop a standard to eliminate religious hatred": this is what the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) asks, which intervened after former governor of Giacarata Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, called "Ahok", was sentenced to two Years of imprisonment for blasphemy.
The law has been in force since 1965 and aims to prevent "abuse and defamation of religions". "In many cases - says a note sent to Fides - allegations of blasphemy are instrumentalized and politicized or "declared by intolerant groups". And in court verdicts, judges ignore evidence, witnesses and petitions presented by defendants". "The Blasphemy Law is often applied against minority religions or to foment hatred towards Christians, Ahmadis, Shiites", says the Commission. "This situation is due to State weaknesses and the unwillingness to seriously examine the implementation of the blasphemy law. Over the last decade, the situation has deteriorated".
In the case of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, "his situation cannot be separated from the political background" and by the fact that Basuki "is of Chinese and Christian origin". The Commission points out what Ahok said, accused of blasphemy: "Do not believe who says you cannot vote for me because [these people] are lying to you by using his Al-Maidah of the Koran". Anger unleashed and Ahok's public apology were not taken into consideration.
His case "constitutes a very dangerous precedent for the application of Indonesian law". The pressures of Islamist groups on the government, police and court have been successful and this is a worrying fact, the Commission concludes.
Meanwhile, as Fides learns, public demonstrations of support towards Ahok multiply. Over seven thousand people participated in a prayer to express solidarity to the governor in Denpasar (Bali) yesterday, May 11th. People, who came from several islands in the archipelago, took to the streets wearing a black dress and carrying candles. "The black dress symbolizes the death of justice in the Indonesian judicial system, and the candle represents light in the midst of darkness in Indonesia", said one of the organizers to Fides.
Citizens present, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists ask for the revision of the trial and Ahok’s release. Those present invited the government and the nation to "honor the values of tolerance and unity of diversity on which Indonesia is based", respecting the Pancasila (the five foundational principles of coexistence in Indonesia). Similar demonstrations were held in Jakarta, Mandi, Yogyakarta, Medan, to show their support for Ahok, and protest against corruption and injustice. (ES-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 12/5/2017)