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INDONESIA: Clerical body ‘sorry’ for false apostasy claims

Clerical body ‘sorry’ for false apostasy claims

North Sumatra branch of Ulema Council sparks row after official said conversions were rampant in local district

By Katharina R. Lestari

 

UCA News (17.05.2022)- https://bit.ly/3Pv35Gn – A provincial branch of Indonesia’s highest Muslim clerical body was forced to apologize on May 17 after coming under fire from local authorities and Christians for indirectly accusing religious minorities of apostasy.

The row began several days earlier when the North Sumatra branch of the Ulema Council claimed that a district in the province had a very alarming rate of apostasy cases.

Muhammad Hatta, who heads the council’s local religious propagation desk, said over the weekend that he was informed about a large number of Muslims abandoning their faith in Langkat district.

Despite a lack of concrete data confirming this, he claimed that “it was very alarming.”

According to him, there were attempts to convert local Muslims to other faiths through marriage and other methods.

“Sometimes a couple professing Islam and another religion get married the Islamic way but after the Muslim is forced to adhere to his or her partner’s religion,” Indonesian language news portal detick.com quoted him as saying.

He pointed to a case in which a 30-year-old Muslim woman was allegedly forced to convert to Christianity after marrying a Protestant man in the district.

However, his claims were fiercely denied by a local official and a Catholic Church leader.

The acting district head, Syah Afandin, acknowledged a Muslim woman had converted to Christianity but asserted that “she was the only one” and “there are no attempts at organized apostasy.”

He said Hatta’s remarks were very inflammatory, “because what really happened was that the Muslim woman dated the Christian man, left her parent’s home for six months to be with him, converted to Christianity, and was married to him by a Protestant pastor.”

He also said the Muslim woman’s parents had filed a police report which was rejected as they had no authority to deal with the case.

Speaking with UCA News on May 17, Reverend Ahmad Sajli DK Pinem, general secretary of the North Sumatra chapter of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, criticized the said the local Ulema council claim was blown out of proportion.

Commenting on the conversion of the Muslim woman he said: “Conversion is a personal affair. It has nothing to do with others.”

He said the woman’s family might be disappointed with her decision. “Or perhaps they want something else. I do not know.”

He also called on Christians in the district not to be provoked by the Ulema Council’s claim about large-scale conversions he said.

The North Sumatra chapter of the MUI finally issued a clarification on May 17 following the criticisms.

Its chairman, Zulkifli Ahmad Dian, apologized for the confusion and said the district had in fact recorded no mass apostasy attempts.

Photo: An official at the North Sumatra branch of Indonesia’s Ulema Council claimed many Muslims were being converted to other religions through marriage. (Unsplash)

Further reading about FORB in Indonesia on HRWF website





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INDONESIA: Police in Java charge man with blasphemy for desecrating Quran

Police in Indonesia’s West Java charge man with blasphemy for desecrating Quran

Iqna (07.05.2022) – https://bit.ly/3FH5pFF – Cepdika Eka Rismana, 25, a resident of Sukabumi city in West Java, was arrested at a restaurant in the city on May 5, police said. He was then charged with blasphemy.

The arrest came after a Muslim group in the province held a protest rally in front of Eka’s parental house in Cianjur and his own house in Sukabumi. They were enraged after a video went viral on social media that showed Eka trampling on a Quran.

“I am Dika Eka consciously, I challenge all Muslims,” Eka said on the video while committing the act.

Police also arrested Eka’s wife on May 5 and named her as a suspect. She is accused of uploading the video on her Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles.

If found guilty, the couple could be jailed up to six years under Indonesian criminal law.

Eka and his wife are Muslims but Eka claimed he has converted to another religion without naming it.

West Java police spokesman Ibrahim Tompo confirmed the arrests. “Eka and his wife have been arrested and now they are detained at the police station for interrogation,” Tompo said on May 5.

Tompo said Eka had committed the act in 2020 and the video was saved on his mobile phone.

“It was uploaded by his wife on social media after the couple had a quarrel in April this year, so his wife was also arrested and named as a suspect,” he said.

The Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s leading Islamic scholars’ body, called on Muslims to remain calm and refrain from vigilante attacks.

“Let the police handle the perpetrator legally,” Muhammad Cholil Nafis, the council’s chairman, said on May 6. “I call upon Muslims to remain calm and not to get provoked over the incident.”

Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, a member of a presidential unit promoting communal tolerance, applauded the police for the quick arrests that prevented possible anarchy over the incident.

The priest said such offensive acts should be handled properly to stop possible conflict that can destroy unity and harmony.

“All blasphemy cases should be processed fairly. Don’t let this cause conflict that can damage the unity of people and destroy the nation,” Father Susetyo told UCA News.

The priest said people of all religions need to respect each other to prevent blasphemy and insisted the law must allowed to take its course to deal with the perpetrators.

Indonesia has seen a series of blasphemy cases in recent times.

On April 9, a court in West Java sentenced Christian YouTuber Muhammad Kace to 10 years in jail. Kace, a Muslim convert, was accused of insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a video posted on YouTube.

Police are also hunting Christian pastor Abraham Ben Moses, who has been accused of blasphemy after he urged Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas to remove 300 verses from the Quran.

Moses, 57, has reportedly fled to the United States to avoid arrest.

 

Photo: ucanews.com

Further reading about FORB in Indonesia on HRWF website





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INDONESIA: Christian YouTuber sentenced to 10 years in prison for ‘criticizing’ Islam

Christian YouTuber sentenced to 10 years in prison for posting videos critical of Islam

By Anugrah Kumar

 

The Christian Post (09.04.2022) –  https://bit.ly/3vfYrmq – An Indonesian Christian YouTuber has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for posting a video that purportedly offended people across the Muslim-majority country.

 

Muhammad Kace, a former Muslim cleric who converted to Christianity in 2014 and had been uploading videos to YouTube criticizing his former faith, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Ciamis District Court in West Java this week.

 

On the day of his sentencing, Muslims surrounded the court demanding a harsher prosecution of the convert, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

 

Kace was arrested in Bali last August after he uploaded a sermon video in which he allegedly insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to UCA News, Muslim groups filed several complaints about that video in which he said: “Muhammad is unknown by God and is only known by his followers because he is surrounded by devils.”

When prosecutors demanded a 10-year jail term for him, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Jakarta-based rights group Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, noted that Muhammad Yahya Waloni, a Muslim convert from Christianity, was recently convicted of a similar offense against Christians but he received only five months.

 

Police allege that Kace uploaded at least 400 videos insulting Islam. And he did it intentionally to stir public unrest, chief prosecutor Syahnan Tanjung was quoted as telling the court. “This is outrageous, so it warrants a stiff sentence,” he said.

In jail, Kace was beaten and tortured by a police official named Napoleon Bonaparte, who was detained in the same prison due to a corruption case, ICC said, adding that Bonaparte forced Kace to eat his excrement.

 

Kace’s lawyer, Martin Lucas Simanjuntak, has said his client will appeal the sentence.

Andreas Harsono, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch Indonesia, told ICC. “Both Christian preacher Mohammad Kace and Muslim cleric Yahya Waloni need not to stay a single night in prison because of the toxic law.”

 

Timothy Carothers, ICC’s advocacy manager for Southeast Asia, said: “The right to speak one’s mind is essential and must be protected. This sort of treatment and punishment under Indonesian law is a shameful reality. As long as Indonesia continues to enforce religious harmony through regulation and prosecution, it will continue to achieve the opposite.”

 

The Southeast Asian country is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Its Constitution is based on the doctrine of Pancasila — five principles upholding the nation’s belief in the one and only God and social justice, humanity, unity and democracy for all.

However, there are many extremist groups in Indonesia that oppose Pancasila.

Churches often face opposition from groups that attempt to obstruct the construction of non-Muslim houses of worship.

 

Photo : Christians gather at a church for Easter mass on April 4, 2021, in Surabaya amid tight police security following the March 28 a bombing at the Makassar cathedral on Palm Sunday. | JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP via Getty Images

Further reading about FORB in Indonesia on HRWF website





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INDONESIA: Discrimination holds back religious minority children

Discrimination holds back religious minority children

By Andreas Harsono, Indonesia Research

 

Human Rights Watch (14.01.2022) – https://bit.ly/3g2fZLq – In December 2021, I had the chance to talk with a bright 14-year-old girl named Maria Tunbonat, a fifth-grader in a state school in Tarakan, North Kalimantan. Her father, Ayub, also joined the video call as we spoke about her school and her hobbies.

 

Maria has been a fifth-grader for three years because her teachers refuse to let her move on to the next grade. The reason? Maria and her family are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses originated in the United States during the 19th century but have since expanded worldwide. Now they have 510 congregations in Indonesia. The group said it had 8.7 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide in 2021.

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses have specific views on key Christian theological issues that make them unpopular with some members of the Christian establishment in Indonesia and elsewhere in the world. Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in Indonesia between 1976 and 2001. In 2002, the Religious Affairs Ministry allowed them to register in Indonesia.

 

In November 2021, the National Commission for Child Protection revealed that Maria and her two younger brothers at SDN 51 state elementary school in Tarakan had been denied a passing grade since 2019 despite their excellent academic records.

Ayub told me that he, his wife and children, Maria, Yosua (grade 4), and Yonatan (grade 2) had converted to become Jehovah’s Witnesses in November 2018. It seemed like a simple conversion, but teachers at the local school disapproved, saying the children were “deviating from Christian teachings”.

 

In 2019, the school expelled them, saying the three siblings had refused to sing the Indonesian national anthem, Indonesia Raya. The siblings had joined school assemblies and stood with respect but refused to sing and salute the national flag in accordance with Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs.

 

“We do not venerate the cross or any other images,” the group’s website says.

 

Ayub filed a lawsuit against the school at the Samarinda State Administrative Court, saying that his children only “saluted God” but neither disrespected the anthem nor the flag. In September 2020, the Indonesian court ruled in favor of the children, allowing them to resume schooling after months of absence.

 

The siblings stayed in their same grades in 2020. According to the school principal, FX Hasto Budi, SDN 51 has 158 Muslim students, two Catholics and four Protestants, including the siblings. The school has a part-time teacher to teach Christianity classes, and Ayub agreed to enroll his children in those classes. In Indonesia, students take mandatory religious instruction based on their religion.

 

When I spoke to Budi, he told me that the three siblings had refused to sing “certain Christian songs” and thus the school failed them in their religion classes. Budi decided to hold them back from moving up to the next grade in 2022.

 

Indonesia’s 1965 blasphemy law “recognizes” only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Budi said he would allow the three children to advance in grades if the government changed the law to recognize Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

“If the Jehovah’s Witnesses claims to be under Christianity, then they must obey the guidelines from the Christian church,” he said. “The Religious Affairs Ministry has a legal explanation about Christian education.”

 

But this is a misreading of the blasphemy law. The explanation attached to the law states that despite “protecting” the six religions from defamation, Indonesia still allows other religions and beliefs to be practiced in Indonesia. President Sukarno, who wrote the law in January 1965, explicitly mentioned that “Judaism, Zoroastrian, Shinto, Taoism and others” could be practiced.

 

The 2014 Children Protection Law also says that all children have the right to practice their religions and beliefs. Article 21 says the state, the central government and local governments are obligated and responsible for fulfilling the rights of children without discrimination, including on the basis of religion.

 

Denying elementary students and advancement to the next grade because of their faith violates their rights to education and freedom of worship. The principal could simply ask the students to take Jehovah’s Witnesses lessons from their community in Tarakan, like Sunda Wiwitan students in West Java have done, or offer another accommodation at the school.

 

Ario Sulistiono of the Jehovah’s Witnesses office in Jakarta told me that a total of 22 children have faced similar problems elsewhere in Indonesia since 2016.  In most cases, parents decided to move their children to other schools that did not discriminate against them in this way. But this is an unacceptable price to pay for one’s religious beliefs. The Tarakan authorities should direct the principal to promote the siblings to their proper grade level immediately. The Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry should issue national instructions prohibiting such discrimination.

 

As I was saying goodbye, Maria asked me what she should spend time learning, as repeating her grade has left her with a lot of time. I suggested she study English, as it will open up a world of information and ideas.

 

Photo: Members of the National Commission for Child Protection speak with students at SDN 51 state elementary school, including Maria Tunbonat and her siblings in Tarakan, North Kalimantan, Indonesia, November 2021. © Photo courtesy of Retno Listyarti of the National Commission for Child Protection

Further reading about FORB in Indonesia on HRWF website





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INDONESIA: Indonesian woman flogged 100 times for adultery, partner gets 15

Indonesian woman flogged 100 times for adultery, partner gets 15

Channel News Asia (13.01.2022) – https://bit.ly/3tlEY4i – An Indonesian woman was flogged 100 times on Thursday (Jan 13) in conservative Aceh province for adultery while her male partner, who denied the accusations, received just 15 lashes.

 

Ivan Najjar Alavi, the head of the general investigation division at East Aceh prosecutors office, said the court handed down a heftier sentence for the married woman after she confessed to investigators she had sex out of her marriage.

 

Judges found it difficult to convict the man, who was then the head of East Aceh fishery agency and also married, because he denied all wrongdoings, Alavi added.

 

“During the trial, he admitted nothing, denying all accusations. Thus, [judges] are not able to prove whether he is guilty,” Alavi told reporters after a public flogging for Sharia law offenders in East Aceh on Thursday.

 

Aceh is the only region in Muslim-majority Indonesia to impose Islamic law, which allows whipping for charges including gambling, adultery, drinking alcohol, and gay sex.

 

As an alternative punishment, instead the judges found the married man guilty of “showing affection to a female partner who is not his wife” after the couple were caught by locals at a palm oil plantation in 2018.

 

He was initially sentenced to 30 lashes but his successful appeal at the Sharia Supreme Court in Aceh reduced the sentence to 15.

 

The woman’s flogging was briefly paused because she couldn’t bear the pain, according to an AFP reporter in the field.

 

Another man convicted of having sex with a minor was also whipped 100 times on Thursday.

 

The man will also serve 75 months in prison for the crime after the flogging according to prosecutors.

 

Dozens watched, recorded and put Thursday’s flogging on social media, a spectacle criticised by rights groups but which regularly attracted hundreds before the pandemic.

 

Unlike the rest of the nation, Aceh follows religious law as part of a 2005 autonomy deal agreed with the central government that ended a decades-long separatist insurgency.

 

Human rights groups slam public caning as cruel, and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has called for it to end.

 

However, it has strong support among Aceh’s population.

 

Photo credits: AFP/Cek Mad


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