24 November 2016

Indonesia’s blasphemy laws

.... this month police formally declared the country’s most prominent Christian politician, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor (in effect, mayor) of Jakarta, to be a suspect in a blasphemy case. If convicted, Mr Purnama, known as Ahok, faces up to five years in prison.

.... The use of blasphemy laws is linked to rising religious intolerance. In recent years hardline Islamists have become increasingly assertive, railing against deviants, heretics and their ilk. Muslim parties in parliament have pushed laws against alcohol, pornography and sexual minorities. Yet it is not at all clear that these moves have widespread support.

Most Indonesians still vote for secular parties (they claimed 68% of the popular vote at the most recent legislative elections, in 2014) rather than religious ones. Many moderate Muslim leaders defend blasphemy laws on the grounds that they prevent violence by allowing religious disputes to be settled by the courts rather than vigilantes.

However, moderates also blame politicians for misusing the laws to stir up sectarian tensions for their own ends. Ahok’s political rivals, for example, are seeking to use the laws to spoil his chances of becoming governor again in elections next year. [The Economist] Read more