03 August 2009
Blasphemy In Indonesia...
The Indonesian Criminal Code defines blasphemy in Article 156. The article is often used to control "deviant" sects and cults. Generally, deviant is any practices that do not conform to an accepted norm. Some of these sects or cults are just plain bizarre, but the more interesting part is probably that they attract followers or believers.
One such cult is the Satria Piningit Weteng Buwono or the Chosen Warriors from the Belly of the Earth. Agus Noro (aka Agus Imam Solihin) was found guilty of blasphemy by the South Jakarta District Court. The gist of the charges set out that the Noro led sermons in his underwear and required all his followers to participate in orgies. Noro had managed to gather some 35 people as followers of his faith.
However, the blasphemy charges related to his blaspheming of Islam. It seems that the biggest crime that Noro committed was to instruct his Muslim followers not to fast and pray at the times required under the tenets of the Islamic faith.
Ultimately, Noro was sentenced to two years and six months in jail. The presiding judge in the case, Judge Haryanto, said that the sentence was less than the five years demanded by public prosecutors because Noro had retracted his statement that he was the incarnation of God (or refused to accept the charge as laid out by the public prosecutors). This knowledge, or spiritual guidance, allegedly came to him in a dream. The dream or vision was provided by Indonesia's first president, Soekarno, back in 1999.
A meagre 35 followers hardly seems like a threat to the established base of Islam in Indonesia. The fact that in one of the world's largest democracies that people are still being jailed for their beliefs and the manner in which they believe in their god or gods shows that Indonesia still has some way to go. The expectation is not perfection, there are no states in the world that are perfect in this regard. However, considering the myriad of other problems afflicting Indonesia, it just seems that the resources dedicated to putting Noro in jail could be better used elsewhere.
Where the religious practices of organizing orgies and allowing minors to either participate or watch are breaches of the law, then it would have been possible to arrest, prosecute, and ultimately, jail, Noro without having to resort to the blasphemy card.
Interestingly, Noro chose to represent himself and without the assistance of counsel.