Reject Laws on Blasphemy: 'God Needs no Defense' (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)


"Muslims across the world, as well as in Indonesia, would do well to learn to ignore insults of Islam, God and the Prophet. With advances in communications technology, such insults and attacks will be more frequent and more fierce. The angry reactions not only play into the hands of provocateurs, but of extremists in the Muslim world who exploit anger for their own political purposes. ...  blasphemy laws not only stifle free speech, they endanger freedom of religion for Muslims and non-Muslims alike."


By Endy M. Bayuni*


October 3, 2012


Indonesia - Jakarta Post - Original Article (English)

Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at the opening of the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly, calls for an international instrument to 'prevent incitement to hostility or violence based on religions or beliefs' Sept. 25.


UNITED NATIONS VIDEO: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Addresses Opening of U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 25, 00:16:51RealVideo

Indonesia is the last country in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC] to be leading a campaign for a global law against blasphemy.


After all, it is one of our former presidents, the late Abdurrahman Wahid, who eloquently objected to just such a law. It was Wahid who once famously observed, “God needs no defense.”


Yet now, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly and as a reaction to an anti-Islamic video tailor which has triggered violent protest across the Muslim world, is taking the initiative to push for a global protocol banning insults to religion [see photo box, left].


With the world’s largest Muslim population, Indonesia has seen its share of angry protests over the film Innocence of Muslims, which was produced and released in the United States. But of the demonstrations that have taken place in Indonesia, only one outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta deteriorated into clashes with police. (Eleven officers had to be treated for injuries.) The others were relatively peaceful.


To his credit, President Yudhoyono was quick to respond to the release of the video and the violent protests it triggered.


By condemning the video and the riots it provoked, he reflected the feelings of most of this nation's Muslims. The government was also quick to demand that Google remove the offending video from YouTube. The film is no longer accessible in Indonesia.


There was no need for the government go beyond these actions, and there was no reason for Indonesians to indulge in the same sort of self-destructive protests that erupted in Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries.


Yet on the eve of his departure to New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, President Yudhoyono said he planned to propose a global law criminalizing blasphemy.


The president is reviving an unsuccessful IOC campaign waged a few years ago. The OIC tried to persuade the U.N. Human Rights Council to issue a resolution condemning defamations of Islam. Pakistan, backed by the OIC, led the campaign in Geneva. Indonesia supported the motion, although it was not the nation taking the initiative.


Why President Yudhoyono decided to take the lead this time remains unclear. He should have heeded his predecessor Abdurrahman Wahid, who served from 1999 to 2001. Abdurrahman repeatedly criticized any attempt to criminalize defamation, in Indonesia or anywhere else.


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Abdurrahman, a Muslim cleric by training who was elected Indonesia’s third president, articulated his view of blasphemy laws in an article that became the foreword to a 2011 book by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea titled Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide.


“Those who claim to defend God, Islam, or the Prophet are thus either deluding themselves or manipulating religion for their own mundane and political purposes,” wrote Abdurrahman, who died in 2009.


The book warns that OIC members are trying to expand blasphemy laws into the Western hemisphere and elsewhere through the U.N., which, the authors say, would stifle freedom - and not just in the Muslim world.


Indonesia’s national blasphemy law is not an inspiring precedent. It is a law that has been used to stifle the diversity of other religious voices, and even within Islam itself.

Posted by Worldmeets.US


The latest victims of the 1965 Blasphemy Law in Indonesia include the followers of Ahmadiyah and Shiite Muslims sects.


The court ruled their teachings to be deviations from Islam, effectively targeting them for persecution because of their beliefs.


An imam who led his congregation to prayer in Indonesian was sent to jail for “insulting” Islam, and a self-confessed atheist is also in jail under the law.


In 2010, a petition to have the law repealed was defeated in the Constitutional Court. The Yudhoyono government joined hands with several Islamic organizations to defend the law as a means of shielding religion from public ridicule.




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President Abdurrahman addressed the issue of free speech, which many Muslim leaders say has been abused to insult their God, religion, and the Prophet: “Defending freedom of expression is by no means synonymous with personally countenancing or encouraging disrespect toward the religious beliefs of others. Rather, it implies greater faith in the judgment of God than of man.”


Muslims across the world, as well as in Indonesia, would do well to read Abdurrahman comments and learn to ignore insults against Islam, God and the Prophet.


With advances in communications technology, such insults and attacks will be more frequent and more fierce. The angry reactions in much of the Muslim world over these past few weeks not only play into the hands of provocateurs, but also of extremists in the Muslim world who exploit anger for their own political purposes.


As the Indonesian experience shows, blasphemy laws not only stifle free speech, they endanger the freedom of religion for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.


*Endy M. Bayuni is Senior Editor at The Jakarta Post.




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[Posted by Worldmeets.US Oct. 3, 6:49am]


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