THE two-year jail sentence for blasphemy handed to Jakarta’s Christian-Chinese governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on Tuesday is a harbinger of worse things to come for Indonesia, Human Rights Watch’s Andreas Harsono said.
The Indonesia-based researcher said the outcome means Indonesians, especially the moderates and the minorities, would have to take extra care when discussing religion, religious freedom, or the Islamic faith.
“It is frightening,” he told Asian Correspondent. “It’s also frightening to moderate Muslims in Indonesia who want to be fair, who want to advocate for equality in Indonesia’s pluralist society.”
“If someone like Ahok is jailed for blasphemy, what will happen to other minorities in Indonesia?” he asked.
Ahok was earlier Tuesday found guilty of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to two years’ jail in a case widely described as a test of religious tolerance in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
According to Reuters, judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto told the south Jakarta court that Ahok was “found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy.” Ahok is expected to appeal the ruling.
The court’s decision comes as a surprise to many, given prosecutors had only called for downgraded charges and the much lighter punishment of a year’s suspended sentence on charges of hate speech.
“It’s not about Ahok but it’s about the future of equality, the future of citizenship in Indonesia,” Andreas said.
“Today is one of the darkest days in Indonesia,” he added. “Ahok is the biggest name in the history of blasphemy cases in Indonesia since 1965. He’s not only the governor of Indonesia’s biggest metropolis but also an ally of the President [Joko Widodo].”
The governor was charged with blasphemy after he made comments last September about the Al Maidah 51 verse of the Quran, regarding whether Muslims can elect a leader of another religion.