Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is to address a United Nations general Assembly meeting in New York Tuesday, to propose an international protocol against religious blasphemy. But – even as so-called Muslim rage flares across the globe – critics say the proposal is insincere and that the Indonesian president should take care of problems at home, first.
At the height of the anti-Islamic blowback partially fueled by the provocative amateur film The Innocence of Muslims, some 1,000 Islamic hardliners staged a violent protest at the US embassy in Jakarta, earlier this month.
Designed to prevent tensions from rising further, the Indonesian government – emulating similar government reactions in Libya, Egypt, Malaysia and Singapore – blocked the film from being viewed on-line in the country.
Now, the Indonesian president is taking it a step further. During his address to the UN general Assembly in New York, President Yudhoyono is expected to propose an international protocol against religious defamation, to prevent religious motivated violence and promote global peace.
But Phil Robertson, deputy director at Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, says the proposal is hypocritical.
“There is a high level of hypocrisy; by saying that he is going to be the champion of religious moderation and religious tolerance at the international level, while he has basically presided over a significant decline in religious tolerance in Indonesia,” said Robertson.
Although Indonesia likes to present the image that it is a moderate, Muslim-majority democracy, only six religions are allowed.
And, in recent years, the president has attracted criticism for failing to take a stand against Islamic vigilantes and to protect the rights of religious minority groups from vengeful and sometimes fatal attacks.
Ironically, it was just a few months ago that United Nations Human Rights Commission recommended that Indonesia revoke its own blasphemy law, given the effect it has had on curbing religious freedom.