Slander, Blasphemy & Censorship

Indonesian Muslims Get Triggered over Governor’s Alleged “Blasphemy”

It's hard being a religious minority in Indonesia, but this man has made a career of it. Now he faces massive street protests calling for his death.

BY Bruce Cornibe · | November 5, 2016

Freedom of speech is something most Americans take for granted way too often. Free speech allows people to challenge ideas as well as articulate their beliefs. However, for some countries this freedom is either non-existent or compromised by the prevalence of certain ideologies. Indonesia provides an example of how Sharia is directly opposed to free speech.

The most populous Muslim majority country of Indonesia has a reputation for being ‘moderate’ and ‘tolerant’ but a recent protest for a governor’s so-called blasphemous remarks challenges that image. While sources are giving various estimates on the number of protesters that took to the streets in Jakarta yelling hostile phrases like “kill Ahok,” as well as “kill Ahok for insulting Islam[,]” one CNN article reports a whopping 200,000 individuals (The Wall Street Journal has the number at 100,000). Furthermore, “[a]s many as 18,000 police and military personnel have been deployed for Friday’s protest, and an inner ring of approximately 100 armed military guards are outside the Governor’s residence, CNN Indonesia says.”

So, what could Jakarta’s “first openly Christian and ethnic Chinese governor” have actually done to elicit such a response? Let’s take a look at an excerpt from an October 19th article of The Sydney Morning Herald that reveals the Governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (or Ahok) “is being investigated by police over claims he defamed a verse in the Koran[,]” and gives some of the background for the allegation, stating:

Prior to the alleged blasphemy, some Islamic groups had urged voters not to re-elect Ahok, citing verse 51 from the fifth sura or chapter of the Koran, al-Ma’ida, which some interpret as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim. Others say the scripture should be understood in its context – a time of war – and not interpreted literally.

In recorded remarks to a group of fishermen that went viral, Ahok suggested that some Muslims were “deceived” by al-Ma’ida 51. The comments caused outrage.

Ahok apologised and insisted he was not criticising the Koranic verse but those who used it to attack him.

For those who are not familiar with Quran 5:51 it says:

O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.

The literal interpretation of Quran 5:51 and other verses (e.g., Quran 3:28) are not only harmful for a government official that happens to be Christian in a Muslim dominated area, but also for the general well-being of society. How are Muslims supposed to get along with non-Muslims even just in a civil manner if they’re obeying parts of the Quran that essentially tells them to be bitter enemies with the kafir? In addition, if even the appearance of challenging such verses equates to blasphemy, which according to The Sydney Morning Herald “[t]he maximum penalty for blasphemy in Indonesia is five years’ jail[,]” then how can any kind of meaningful reform within Islam transpire in the country? This is a country whose Aceh provincial government recently caned a twenty year old woman “for being ‘too close’ to her boyfriend.” The International Business Times reveals “[e]arlier in October, another woman was caned in front of a cheering crowd. She was one of 13 people – seven men and six women aged between 21 and 30 – who were punished for violating laws that ban public display of intimacy among unwed couples.”

The fact that so many people came out to the protest to condemn Ahok – even calling for his death – should not surprise those familiar with Islamic texts. For example, just examine how Quran 33:57-61 treats those opposed to Islam, saying:

Indeed, those who abuse Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this world and the Hereafter and prepared for them a humiliating punishment. And those who harm believing men and believing women for [something] other than what they have earned have certainly born upon themselves a slander and manifest sin. O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. If the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is disease and those who spread rumors in al-Madinah do not cease, We will surely incite you against them; then they will not remain your neighbors therein except for a little. Accursed wherever they are found, [being] seized and massacred completely.

While the media wants to paint Islamists as an extreme fringe of Islam, the recent protest gives a glimpse into just how large and influential this ‘fringe’ is when mobilized.


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