Indonesian Shiite’s Conviction Raises Concerns About Intolerance

Analysis, posted 07.17.2012, from Indonesia, in:
Indonesian Shiite’s Conviction Raises Concerns About Intolerance (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

While the Islamic campaign that blocked Lady Gaga from coming to Jakarta grabbed global headlines in May, human-rights activists say a local court’s decision last week to lock up a Shiite Muslim leader for his minority beliefs are a more worrying example of the growing intolerance in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.

A court on Madura Island sentenced Tajul Muluk, a local Shiite leader, to two years in prison Thursday for deviant teachings “causing public anxiety.”

“The defendant has been legally and convincingly proven guilty of blasphemy,” said presiding judge Purnomo Amin Tjahjo, according to the Associated Press. “His acts, in principle, have insulted Islam.”

During the trial, some witnesses testified that Mr. Muluk taught that the current Koran wasn’t an authentic text, and that Muslims should pray only three times a day instead of five, and that the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca wasn’t obligatory.

Mr. Muluk denied that he was teaching any of those points or promoting deviant teachings and said he would appeal the decision.

Akhol Firdaus, coordinator for the Task Force for Freedom of Religion and Beliefs, a non-government rights organization, condemned the verdict as an assault on liberty.

“This seems to be an attempt at sidelining religious minorities,” he said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch urged the Indonesian government to repeal the blasphemy law under which Mr. Muluk was prosecuted and free him. The law, which carries a maximum sentence of five years, has been used in the past against members of different religious groups branded as deviant.

“The government needs to reverse the growing trend of violence and legal action against religious minorities in the country,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Indonesian authorities have said they respect religious diversity and have called on citizens to treat members of minority religious groups fairly.

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By Ahmad Pathoni

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