Indonesian High Court Lets Blasphemy Law Stand

April 20, 2010 - San Francisco, CA - - In a lopsided 8-1 vote, Indonesia's constitutional court upheld the legality of a disputed 1965 statute [refusing to accept the case for review] making it a crime to malign any one of six officially protected religions [Islam, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism and Confucianism].

The law additionally allows prosecution for interpreting any of these belief systems in any but "standard" manner, a measure intended primarily to preserve religious orthodoxy primarily among the country's 200 million plus Sunni Muslims. The law involved, Article 156(a) specifically prohibits not only blasphemy, but heresy and "deviance" and carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Indonesia is home to the world's largest concentration of Muslims.

Explaining the government's position, Suryadharma Ali, Indonesia's religious affairs minister stated, "The law should be upheld because if it is annulled ... Islam and the Quran could be interpreted at will and people and figures could declare new prophets and establish new religions." [source, Al-Jazeera, Indonesia upholds blasphemy law,]

The decision not to review the case concluded a tumultuous period in Indonesian politics which featured clashes between defenders of the blasphemy law and attorneys for the plaintiffs that are thought to have influenced the high court's jurists concerned about social stability. [see, Jakarta Post, Court Upholds Blasphemy Law.]

©2010 LLC. All rights reserved.