Blasphemy law in Indonesia

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Blasphemy law in Indonesia (Indonesian: Undang-undang Penistaan Agama) is the legislation, presidential decrees, and ministerial directives that prohibit blasphemy in Indonesia.

Criminal Code[edit]

Indonesia prohibits blasphemy by its Criminal Code. The Code's Article 156(a) targets those who deliberately, in public, express feelings of hostility, hatred, or contempt against religions with the purpose of preventing others from adhering to any religion, and targets those who disgrace a religion. The penalty for violating Article 156(a) is a maximum of five years' imprisonment.[1][2]

Presidential decree[edit]

Article 156(a) is the complement to a decree enacted by President Sukarno and implemented by President Soeharto, namely, Presidential Decree No. 1/PNPS/1965 on the Prevention of Blasphemy and Abuse of Religions. Article 1 of the decree prohibits the "deviant interpretation" of religious teachings, and mandates the President to dissolve any organisation practicing deviant teachings.[2] Until the end of the 20th century, Indonesian society was tolerant of Islam (88% of the population), Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Judaism, and animism.[3] The Government was tolerant of persons with no religion, but does not count them in any census.[3]


Article 29 of Indonesia's Constitution stipulates "the state is based on the belief in the one supreme God." The Constitution does not dictate which religion's version of God should be worshipped.[2] In January 2006, the Ministry of Religious Affairs accorded official status to six religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. On 9 December 2006, the House of Representatives passed a new civil registration bill requiring citizens to identify themselves on government ID cards as a member of one of the six religions.[3]


The Government formed a body of Muslim advisors, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) in 1975, and continues to fund and appoint its members. The MUI is not formally a government body but it is influential. The Government considers the MUI's fatawa when making decisions or drafting legislation.[3] In July 2005, the MUI issued a fatwa that condemned the sect of Ahmadiyya as a heresy. In June 2008, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Home Ministry issued a Joint Ministerial Letter regarding the Ahmadiyya. The letter told authorities to restrict Ahmadiyya activities to private worship, and to prevent Ahmadi Muslims from proselytising. Provincial governors in West Sumatra, South Sumatra, and West Nusa Tenggara banned all Ahmadiyya activity.[1]


Indonesia's laws and policies have produced many instances where members of one religion have persecuted the members of other religions or of other sects. The authorities have not brought to justice many perpetrators of crimes. Crimes are commonly justified by the perpetrators as actions against hatred, heresy, blasphemy, or deviance.[1][3]

In October 2009, a group of petitioners, including some human rights groups, requested that Indonesia's Constitutional Court review the 1965 Law on Blasphemy. On 19 April 2010, the Court announced its refusal to make the review. "If the Blasphemy Law was scrapped before a new law was enacted ... it was feared that misuses and contempt of religion would occur and trigger conflicts in society," Justice Akil Mochtar said. The Court offered an interpretation of the Law. The interpretation says the state recognises six religions, and "leaves alone" the followers of other religions.[4]

Selected cases[edit]

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama
Protests against Basuki
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (left) was convicted of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. His speech in which he referenced a verse from the Quran sparked wide protests asking for his conviction.
  • In August 2018, Meiliana, a Buddhist woman was sentenced to 18 months in prison for religious blasphemy. Meliana was accused of blasphemy against Islam for her complaint in July 2016 about the loudspeaker volume of a mosque near her house in Tanjungbalai City, North Sumatra Province.[5] Her comment triggered the worst anti-Chinese riot in the country since 1998, with Muslims who claimed to have been offended by her words. Several Buddhist temples were burned or ransacked in Tanjungbalai. Over a dozen people were sentenced to one to four months in prison for their roles in the riot.[6] Human rights activists have criticised the law enforcers for prosecuting Meiliana.[7] After the process, the judge Wahyu Prasetyo Wibowo in charge of the case, was apprehended by the Corruption Eradication Commission in an investigation into bribery allegedly involving Medan court officials.[8] In April 2019 the court rejected Meliana's appeal.[9]
  • In May 2018 Abraham Ben Moses, also known as Saifuddin Ibrahim, a Christian cleric who converted from Islam, was sentenced to 4 years in court for religious defamation and fined 50 million rupiah for proselytising his Christian faith to a Muslim.[10]
  • In May 2017, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama during his tenure as the governor of Jakarta, made a controversial speech while introducing a government project at Thousand Islands in which he referenced a verse from the Quran. His opponents criticised this speech as blasphemous, and reported him to the police. He was later convicted of blasphemy against Islam by the North Jakarta District Court and sentenced to two years' imprisonment.[11][12][13][14] This decision barred him from serving as the governor of Jakarta, and he was replaced by his deputy, Djarot Saiful Hidayat.
  • In January 2012, an Indonesian man named Alexander Aan who said on Facebook that God did not exist is facing jail, as atheism is reportedly "a violation of Indonesian law under the founding principles of the country".[15][16]
  • On 6 May 2010, a court sentenced Bakri Abdullah to one year in jail for blasphemy because the 70-year-old claimed to be a prophet and to have visited heaven in 1975 and 1997.[17]
  • On 2 June 2009, the Central Jakarta District Court convicted Lia Eden, also known as Lia Aminuddin or Syamsuriati, of blasphemy. The court accepted that Eden had proselytised her religion, known as Salamullah, which she invented. The court sentenced her to two years and six months in prison.[18] Eden had already served sixteen months for the same offence because of the same court's sentence on 29 June 2006. In 1997, the MUI had issued an edict declaring Eden's religion deviant.[3] Lia's right-hand man, Wahyu Andito Putro Wibisono, who was also accused of the crime, was given a two-year prison sentence.[18]
  • On 9 December 2008, hundreds of Muslim rioters damaged sixty-seven houses, a church, and a community hall, and injured five people in Masohi, Central Maluku. The rioters were allegedly angry that a Christian school teacher, Wilhelmina Holle, had allegedly said something blasphemous during an after-class tutorial at an elementary school.[19] The police arrested Holle for blasphemy. The police arrested two Muslim men for inciting violence.[20]
  • In April 2008, a court sentenced Ahmad Moshaddeq, the leader of a sect called Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah, to four years in prison for committing blasphemous acts. On 2 May 2008, Padang District Court sentenced Dedi Priadi and Gerry Lufthi Yudistira, also members of the Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah sect, to three years in prison under Article 156(a).[1]
  • On 11 November 2007, the Supreme Court of Indonesia sentenced Abdul Rahman, a senior member of the Lia Eden sect, to three years in prison for blasphemy because he claimed to be a reincarnation of Prophet Mohammed.[21]
  • In April 2007, police in Malang, East Java, detained forty-two Protestants for disseminating a "prayer video" that instructs individuals to put the Quran on the ground, and to pray for the conversion of Indonesia's Muslim political leaders. In September 2007, a local court found each of those detained guilty of insulting religion, and sentenced each to five years in prison.[1]
  • On 10 April 2007, police in the town of Pasuruan, East Java, arrested two men, Rochamim (or Rohim) and Toyib. Toyib was a follower of Rochamim who, according to local residents, said things such as Islam is an Arab religion; prayers five times a day are unnecessary; and the Quran is full of lies. The police charged Toyib under Article 156(a) because he was telling others what Rochamim said.[22]
  • On 28 June 2006, the Polewali, South Sulawesi state court sentenced Sumardi Tappaya, a Muslim and a high school religious teacher, to six months in prison for heresy after a relative accused him of whistling during prayers. The local MUI declared the whistling deviant.[3]
  • In May 2006, the press reported that the Banyuwangi, East Java regional legislature voted to oust from office Banyuwangi's Regent, Ratna Ani Lestari. Those in favor of the ouster accused Ratna, a Muslim by birth, of blaspheming Islam by practicing a different religion from the one stated on her identity card. Ratna's supporters stated that she was the target of a religiously motivated smear campaign because of her marriage to a Hindu.[3]
  • In November 2005, local police on the island of Madura arrested a man for denigrating a religion because he publicly professed a nontraditional version of Islam. A court sentenced the man to two-and-a-half years' imprisonment.[3]
  • In October 2005, police in Central Sulawesi raided their neighborhood Mahdi sect after locals from other villages complained that sect followers were not fasting or not performing ritual prayers during Ramadan. Three policemen and two sect members died in the clash. Local courts tried five Mahdi members for killing the police. In January 2006, the Mahdi members were convicted and sentenced to between nine and twelve years in prison.[3]
  • In September 2005, an East Java court sentenced each of six drug and cancer treatment counselors at an East Java treatment center to five years in prison and an additional three years in prison for violating key precepts of Islam by using paranormal healing methods. A local MUI edict characterised the center's methods as heretical. Police arrested the counselors while they tried to defend themselves from hundreds of persons who raided the center's headquarters.[3]
  • In August 2005, East Java's Malang District Court sentenced Muhammad Yusman Roy to two years' imprisonment for reciting Muslim prayers in Indonesian, which, according to the MUI, tarnished the purity of Arabic-based Islam. Roy was released from prison on 9 November 2006 after serving eighteen months of his sentence.[3]
  • In June 2005, police charged a lecturer at the Muhammadiyah University in Palu for heresy. The police held the lecturer for five days before placing him under house arrest after two thousand persons protested against his published editorial: "Islam, A Failed Religion." The editorial, among other things, highlighted the spread of corruption in Indonesia. The lecturer was released from house arrest and was dismissed by the university.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom May 2009" (PDF). Indonesia. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. May 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 May 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Al ‘Afghani, Mohamad Mova (3 December 2007). "Ruling against blasphemy unconstitutional". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Indonesia". International Religious Freedom Report 2007. U.S. State Department. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
  4. ^ Hapsari, Arghea Desafti (23 April 2010). "Court upholds Blasphemy Law". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  5. ^ Osborne, Samuel (21 August 2018). "Woman who complained about noisy mosque jailed for blasphemy". The Independent.
  6. ^ Apriadi Gunawan (21 August 2018). "BREAKING: Buddhist woman imprisoned for complaining about mosque's speaker". The Jakarta Post.
  7. ^ "URGENT ACTION: 18 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR MOSQUE NOISE COMPLAINT" (PDF). Amnesty International. 30 August 2018.
  8. ^ Kharishar Kahfi, Apriadi Gunawan and Arya Dipa (29 August 2018). "KPK nabs judge presiding over Meiliana blasphemy case". The Jakarta Post.
  9. ^ Marguerite Afra Sapiie and Apriadi Gunawan (8 April 2019). "Supreme Court rejects Buddhist woman's appeal of blasphemy verdict". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  10. ^ "Man sentenced to four years in prison for religious defamation". The Jakarta Post. 7 May 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Ahok Jailed for Two Years". 9 May 2017. Archived from the original on 22 September 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  12. ^ "Ahok Sent to 2 Years in Prison for Blasphemy". 9 May 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  13. ^ "Jakarta governor Ahok found guilty of blasphemy, jailed for two years". 9 May 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Jakarta governor Ahok found guilty of blasphemy". BBC. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  15. ^ "Row over Indonesia atheist Facebook post". BBC News. 20 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  16. ^ Camelia Pasandaran (20 January 2012). "Dismay After Indonesian Atheist Charged With Blasphemy". JakartaGlobe. Archived from the original on 25 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  17. ^ Indonesian prophet jailed for blasphemy.
  18. ^ a b Wisnu, Andra (3 June 2009). "Lia Eden sentenced to prison, again". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  19. ^ Tunny, M. Azis (13 December 2008). "Maluku Police name new suspect, take over case". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  20. ^ "Indonesia: Village to be rebuilt following Islamic rampage". Compass Direct News. 17 December 2008. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  21. ^ Patung (27 February 2006). "Abdul Rahman, Blasphemer". Indonesia Matters. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  22. ^ Patung (11 April 2007). "Islam is for Arabs". Indonesia Matters. Retrieved 23 June 2009.