The Toxic Impact of Indonesia’s Abusive Blasphemy Law

By Andreas Harsono

Donald Ignatius Suyanto, a chef living on the Hindu-majority island of Bali, on March 21, 2016 uploaded a video to YouTube in which he questioned the integrity of the Islamic shahada, or statement of faith. That prompted complaints from some Muslim bloggers and on July 27, 2017, police arrested Suyanto for blasphemy. He is currently behind bars awaiting trial.

In May 2017, Aking Saputra, a real estate executive in Karawang, West Java posted on Facebook his opinion that the majority of cadres of the Indonesian Communist Party, banned since 1966, had been Muslim clerics. A local Islamist group protested that those comments were blasphemous. Police arrested Saputra for blasphemy on June 9 and he is currently facing trial.

These are just two of the two dozen or so blasphemy prosecutions filed since President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo took office in October 2014, according to databases of the Setara Institute and the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, two Jakarta-based nongovernmental organizations.