Blasphemy laws wielded against minorities
The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
“Rising intolerance” is imperiling Indonesia’s minorities, said Greg Fealy. Home to the world’s largest Muslim population, with more than 87 percent of its 261 million citizens identifying as Muslim, Indonesia prides itself on being a moderate democracy that “respects diversity.” Extremism is now threatening that reputation. Meiliana, a 44-year-old Buddhist of Chinese descent—and therefore a member of both an ethnic and a religious minority—was sentenced to 18 months in prison in late August for complaining to her neighbor “about the earsplitting volume of amplified calls to prayer from a nearby mosque.” That complaint sparked a vicious response from local Muslims, who stoned her house, forcing her and her family to flee to another city. The rioters also attacked and damaged 12 Buddhist temples in the area. For those crimes, eight Muslims were given prison terms of just one to two months—by the very same court that handed Meiliana a much harsher sentence. Another “double minority,” Ahok, the Chinese Christian former governor of Jakarta, was sentenced to two years in prison last year for supposedly insulting the Quran. Indonesian President Joko Widodo is said to disapprove of blasphemy verdicts, but he hasn’t spoken up “for fear of being accused of failing to defend Islam.” How moderate is Indonesia, really, when Islamists can so easily “turn religion into a weapon”?