Indonesia: Blasphemy proceedings lead to prison sentence for Governor - The ruling against Ahok is a new high point of religious intolerance
A warning regarding tendencies of Islamization in politics and society (Press Release)
According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the fact that the Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (a.k.a. “Ahok”) was sentenced to prison in Jakarta based on accusations of blasphemy is a “sad new high point of religious intolerance in the most world’s most populous Muslim state.” Ulrich Delius, Asia expert of the STP in Göttingen, stated that the verdict, which was announced in Jakarta on Tuesday, is to be seen as “scandalous” and as a clear warning for Indonesia’s religious minorities “that freedom of religion and democratic civil rights will no longer be valid for them. Initially, the trial against Ahok had been a dramatic example of how religious issues can be instrumentalized in politics – but now, the ruling will send out shockwaves through the entire region. In Indonesia, there is a danger of Islamization in politics and society, which could destabilize all of Southeast Asia. The country can no longer be seen as a home of religious tolerance – that’s over!”
The ruling against Ahok (who – as a Christian and a member of the Chinese population group – is a representative of two minority groups) is the outcome of elaborate court proceedings. Radical Islamists had accused him of blasphemy and initiated mass protests during the trial, demanded his imprisonment, and, thus, prevented him from being re-elected as Governor. “For the radical Islamists, the ruling is a sign of approval – and they will aim to interfere with politics in Indonesia even more. They can already claim to have abruptly ended the political career of a close confidant of President Widodo by staging blasphemy proceedings,” said Delius.
“Indonesia must finally address the growing threat of radical Islamism. The country has a very lively civil society and had been regarded as the best example of a successful democratization after decades of dictatorship. But Indonesia’s Islamists clearly don’t approve of a secular democracy with civil rights for minorities,” warned the human rights activist. “There has to be a momentum of change in Indonesia’s society, and the future of the country must be discussed openly. Otherwise, we will experience a gradual demise of democratic structures, with dramatic consequences not only for the ethnic and religious minorities.”
Header Photo: Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr