Human Rights Watch urges Indonesia to release cleric who is said to have taught a deviation from mainstream Islam
An Indonesian court has sentenced a Shia cleric to two years’ imprisonment for blasphemy. Tajul Muluk was said to have taught a deviation from mainstream Islam and had therefore caused “public anxiety”.
Witnesses told the court that Muluk encouraged Muslims to pray three rather than five times a day, that the Qur’an was no longer authentic and that followers need not make the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, which is considered one of the five pillars of Islam.
Members of Muluk’s community said they were victims of a hate campaign waged by Islamist militants, and police had been unwilling to act on their behalf. Sunni militants had burned down houses including Muluk’s and an Islamic school, and forced 500 residents to flee.
Human Rights Watch urged Indonesia to release Muluk and repeal its blasphemy laws, which it said posed a threat to religious freedom. It said Muluk’s case was an example of a “growing trend of violence and legal action against religious minorities”.
Activists say religious intolerance ranges from harassment to arson attacks. Last year the local Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace recorded 244 acts of violence against religious minorities, nearly double the 2007 figure.
In March Andreas Guntur, leader of the Amanat Keagungan Ilahi spiritual group, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for blasphemy for alleged unconventional Islamic teachings. In June Alex Aan, a civil servant, was jailed for two and a half years after posting “God doesn’t exist” on Facebook.