Indonesian blasphemy saga: Islamic hardliner accused of insulting Christianity

29-Dec-2016 Intellasia | SMH | 6:00 AM Print This Post

There has been a new twist in the blasphemy saga gripping Indonesia with Islamic hardliner Habib Rizieq reported to police for allegedly insulting Christianity during a sermon on Christmas Day.

The latest drama came as the North Jakarta District Court ruled it would proceed with the blasphemy trial of Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, who is facing a maximum five years’ jail for allegedly insulting Islam.

Rizieq is the founder of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the group that has spearheaded three mass rallies calling for the imprisonment of Ahok for telling voters they had been deceived by his opponents using a Koranic verse.

But the Union of Catholic University Students of the Republic of Indonesia reported Rizieq after viewing a video of a sermon in which he allegedly said: “If Jesus is the son of God, who is the midwife?”. They also reported two people who uploaded the video on social media.

While explaining why Muslims should not allow others to wish them a Merry Christmas, Rizieq said it was wrong because it was saying happy birthday to the child of God.

He said a verse in the Koran (the third verse of sura 112) says: “He (God) neither begets nor is begotten.”

“If Jesus is the son of God, then who would be the midwife?” Rizieq says on the video, which went viral on social media. His comments were greeted with much mirth from those attending his sermon in East Java.

Catholic University Students Union leader Angelo Wake Kako said: “We felt insulted and hurt by the hate statement from Habib Rizieq. It mirrored the lack of tolerance towards diversity in Indonesia, which has been nourished by our ancestors and by us.”

Jakarta Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said the case would be investigated. “It will be studied to determine whether a crime has taken place,” he told Fairfax Media.

“We will have an internal meeting to discuss the case.”

University of NSW academic Melissa Crouch, an expert in Indonesia’s blasphemy laws, said there were precedents of people being convicted of blaspheming Christianity but usually it was intra-Christian disputes.

In 2009, for example, the leader of a Christian sect known as Zion City of Allah and his six disciples were jailed for six months for instructing their followers not to take communion and forbidding wedding ceremonies in church.

Leaders of the local Timor Evangelical Church agreed with the provincial leaders, saying the sect was illegal, according to the 2010 international religious freedom annual report to Congress.

“I think it is probably unprecedented for a Catholic group to lodge a complaint against a radical Islamist leader,” Dr Crouch told Fairfax Media.

“I think we are in uncharted waters.”

Indonesian cleric Ustadz Alfian Tanjung, who was protesting outside Ahok’s trial, told Fairfax Media Rizieq had not committed blasphemy.

“It was just a logical question. If God has a child, then logically there must be someone who assisted with the birth. Who was it?”

The founder of the Indonesian Legal Resource Centre, Uli Parulian Sihombing, said blasphemy cases were subjective.

“If you ask a Muslim they might not see it as blasphemy, if you ask a Christian, they might see it as blasphemy. It depends on who sees it. From a legal point of view, there really is no blasphemy. We oppose the existence of the blasphemy law.”

Ahok’s trial will resume on January 3.


Category: Indonesia

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