More for Blasphemy Day

by Greg Mayer

Following up on the theme for the day, the New York Times reports that in Indonesia, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta, has been convicted of blasphemy against Islam, and has been immediately placed in prison to begin his two year sentence while his lawyers appeal the case. Basuki, a Christian and ethnic Chinese, had succeeded to the governorship after his political ally, Joko Widodo, a Muslim, was elected president. Basuki was widely expected to be elected to the governorship outright, until Islamists argued that the Quran forbade Muslims from voting for non-Muslims.

His offense was arguing that a particular Quranic passage could be interpreted in a more enlightened manner than in the way his opponents interpreted it. From an earlier Times article:

[In an address to fishermen] Mr. Basuki lightheartedly cited a verse of the Quran that warns Muslims against taking Christians and Jews as allies. He said at the time that given Indonesia’s transition to democracy in 1999, it was perfectly acceptable for Muslim voters to choose a Christian in the election for governor in February.

A five judge panel has unanimously found that he’s guilty, evidently confirming that the Quran does indeed forbid Muslims from voting for non-Muslims. One of the groups that demanded Basuki be punished for his blasphemy was Hizb ut-Tahrir, which the Times describes as a group that

… rejects democratic governance and says it aims to create a Pan-Islamic state among predominantly Muslim countries, by force if necessary. The group has been tolerated in Indonesia despite openly rejecting the secular, democratically elected government and the pluralist, multireligious national ideology, known as Pancasila.

Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian human rights researcher, summed it up:

“It’s a sad day, and it’s frightening … If the governor of Indonesia’s largest and most complex city, and who is an ally of the Indonesian president, can be brought down and humiliated this way, what will happen to normal Indonesian citizens?”


JAC: Let me add here that Muslim apologists like Reza Aslan always point to Indonesia as an example of an “enlightened” Muslim country.


  1. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Indonesia: where Reza Aslan says women are “absolutely equal to men” but Muhammad’s birthday is celebrated by performing FGM on baby girls and women have to undergo virginity tests before they can join the police force.

    For a Muslim-majority nation it actually is fairly enlightened, but that’s because the comparison is with places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and Egypt.

  2. Adam M.
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Even if he was “wrong” about the interpretation of the verse, does that really rise to the level of blasphemy? I always thought that requires some degree of irreverence.

    At best, this is a politically motivated conviction, which would be damning enough. At worst, they really have no tolerance at all for differing opinions.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      I always thought that requires some degree of irreverence.

      Disagreement is the only criterion necessary.

      At best, this is a politically motivated conviction,

      Oh, for sure it is. As was (for example) Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trials. I’ve never had reason to care about Indonesia’s internal politics, but the little that I’ve paid any attention to has flagged it to me as a very murky pool. By the murky standards of the average country in the world.

      At worst, they really have no tolerance at all for differing opinions.

      And to be honest, they make few bones about it. “tolerance of differing opinions” is a very Western concept and many countries and peoples simply do not share it. It’s not a nice fact, but it’s a fact nonetheless.

  3. Zia
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Indonesia: where Reza Aslan and other apologist holds up as a modern Islamic county and representing true Islam. To quote Trump, so sad

  4. SecMilChap
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    My kids’ GuideFather is unable to access the WWW where he is, and I make sure that he gets to see each one. He and I agree that JC&Mo are some of the best expressions of irony and rationality to be found.

  5. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    According to a commentator on Australian Broadcasting Corportation’s Radio National, Mr Basuki was tried and convicted for a breach of s.156 (maximum penalty 4 years), but sentenced for a breach of s. 156A (maximum penalty 5 years). The significance of this is that a person sentenced for an offence carrying a maximum penalty of 5 years or more is permanently banned from standing for any elected office!

  6. Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Their collective behaviour against blasphemy seems similar to the regressive left but with the full force of the law to show how hurtful the words are, boo hoo… but it actually shows a weakness to the obvious even though the accusers derive power from it. More’s the pity.
    All hail to blasphemy day!

  7. Diane G.
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    Scary to think about by how much the benighted, ideological, menacing, depraved, willfully ignorant, etc., sectors of the human population outnumber the critical thinkers.

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