Dismay After Indonesian Atheist Charged With Blasphemy
Police on Friday confirmed that they had charged a man with blasphemy after he was reported by the Indonesia Council of Ulema.
Dharmasraya Police Chief Sr. Comr. Chairul Aziz told the Jakarta Globe on Friday that the district branch of the council, known as MUI, and other Islamic organizations believed Alexander, 31, had defiled Islam by using passages from the Koran to denounce the existence of God.
Alexander, a civil servant, is facing five years in jail for writing “God does not exist” on a Facebook page he moderated called “Ateis Minang” (“Minang Atheists”).
Chairul said the issue was that Alexander had used the Koran to highlight his atheist views.
“So it meets the criteria of tainting religion, in this case Islam.”
Blasphemy, which carries a five-year sentence, is defined under the Criminal Code as publicly expressing feelings or doing something that spreads hatred, abuse or taints certain religions in Indonesia in a way that could cause someone to disbelieve religion.”
National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) chairman Ifdhal Kasim urged the police to remain neutral and not be forced to act by the majority.
“They should protect freedom of expression, instead of listening too much to the majority,” Ifdhal told the Globe. “Police should remain neutral instead of upholding the law subjectively.”
He also lashed out at MUI, saying the body was not even a state institution.
“If everyone does whatever MUI says, the law will be absurd.”
A member of a 600-strong atheist organization in Jakarta, meanwhile, said the case was a clear breach of human rights.
He would not be identified because of fears for his safety.
“If MUI thinks that there’s an imaginary friend up there, it doesn’t mean people should believe it,” he said. “Why is it that we cannot criticize religion? This is against freedom of expression and human rights.”