The Jakarta court sentenced Governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama to two years in prison for blasphemy against Islam has sent a chilling message to non-Muslims in Indonesia. How could decrease religious freedom slowly in Indonesia? And how could the political Islam dominate the country?
Ahok, a Christian himself, is the biggest political figure to become a victim under the blasphemy law. Not only is he the Governor of Jakarta, supported by Indonesia, the largest political party, but he is also an ally of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Ahok and Jokowi were the dream team: Jokowi, Ahok do daily management.
Ahok is a big blow for the President. He could also be expected, as infidels, kafir is a term used to describe the Islamists, their Muslim opponents.
Indonesia is in the transition from dictatorship to democracy has created space for greater freedom of expression for all Indonesians, including the Islamists. Encouraged by the government’s inaction to enforce discrimination and violence against religious minorities, in the last 19 years, Islamists have increasingly to laws such as the blasphemy-protect act strict to Islam and move to Indonesia from a secular to an Islamic state.
The Indonesian Constitution of 1945 guarantees freedom of religion. But in January 1965, when then-President Sukarno issued a presidential decree that prohibited individuals from hostile to other religions. Sukarno has to protect Indonesia’s six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. Sukarno never used the law. He lost power in October 1965.
General Suharto, who ruled Indonesia from 1965 to 1998, used the blasphemy law, only a handful of times. Three of his successor, B. J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, and Megawati Sukarnoputri—never used it.
The law was only a Problem when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono succeeded Megawati in 2004. Yudhoyono strengthened the blasphemy law offices, under the Attorney General’s Office, through the creation of a branch in each province and regency. He also took no action against the emerging Islamist militant groups, resulting in threats and violence against religious minorities. During his decade in power, the Yudhoyono administration of at least 106 blasphemy cases sent to the courts – and all were found guilty.
In March 2006, Yudhoyono a “religious harmony” regulation ordered and set up the government Advisory bodies, skillfully named, and the Religious harmony Forum in each province and regency. The forum says the credo: “The majority should be respect for the protection of the minorities and the minorities are the majority.” But, basically, denies the same rights to Indonesian citizens. In many Muslim-majority areas, to have the creed of Muslims is allowed, an effective veto power over the activities of religious minorities. More than 1,000 churches have been closed, has been in this decade.
2014, Jokowi managed to Yudhoyono. Many opinion-formers and advised Muslim leaders to make Jokowi undo the discriminatory infrastructure, which he had inherited from Yudhoyono.
Unfortunately, Jokowi refused to take these steps. He tried, instead, to promote better relations with the moderate Muslim groups such as the nationwide Nahdlatul Ulama, in the hope that it will strengthen his hand with the hard-line Islamist groups. He has obviously calculated wrong.
The Ahok judgment has approved of the Islamist narrative of blasphemy. One of the five judges, who stressed reciting the Qur’an Al-Maidah verse 51 in Arabic, the Muslims should not choose non-Muslim leaders. The court also adopted the Islamist position that Muslims should not comment on the Qur’anic Interpretation.
The judgement paints a frightening future for moderate Muslims and non-Muslims, who believe that in Indonesia, the pluralistic society. Non-Muslims will think twice before you post comments in public or on social media about the diversity and pluralism. Beyond elected officials, public servants and managers of state-owned companies next in the series.
To speak it will be OK, about the opening of a food-provider during the Ramadan fasting month? To discuss it will be allowed, compulsory wearing of the hijab? Non-Muslims could live with the risk of jail time just by logging in to these ordinary subjects of the Indonesian.
If someone could be powerful and once popular as Ahok, imprisoned for blasphemy, who’s next?
Andreas Harsono is a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.