News / Asia

Facebook Atheist Jailed in Indonesia

30 year-old Indonesian Alexander Aan listens to the judges delivering his verdict in West Sumatra, June 14, 2012.30 year-old Indonesian Alexander Aan listens to the judges delivering his verdict in West Sumatra, June 14, 2012.
x
30 year-old Indonesian Alexander Aan listens to the judges delivering his verdict in West Sumatra, June 14, 2012.
30 year-old Indonesian Alexander Aan listens to the judges delivering his verdict in West Sumatra, June 14, 2012.
Kate Lamb
JAKARTA - An Indonesian man extolling the virtues of atheism and posting controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad online has been jailed for two-and-a-half years. It is a verdict human rights activists say is a step backward for the majority Muslim nation they say is known for religious tolerance.
 
It was posting the words “God does not exist” on his Facebook page that first caused trouble for 30-year-old Alexander Aan.
 
The civil servant from Sumatra was beaten by an angry mob and later arrested, but it was not only for his admission of atheism.
 
Aan had also posted several explicit cartoons of the prophet Muhammad online, one depicting the prophet having sex with his servant, another that showed him finding his daughter-in-law sexually alluring.
 
Facing charges of blasphemy, inciting hatred and encouraging atheism, a Sumatra court ruled Thursday that Aan will spend the next two-and-a-half years in prison and pay a $10,000 fine.
 
His lawyer Deddi Alparesi said the decision is unjust. The judges did not consider the facts, Aparesi said, as Alexander never intended to spread religious hatred.
 
The lawyer also pointed out that an Islamic professor even took to the stand to verify that Aan is “theologically anxious” and does not have anyone with whom he can discuss his thoughts on atheism.
 
While the charges of blasphemy and promoting atheism were dismissed, Aan was found guilty of spreading religious hatred under the controversial 2008 electronic transactions law.
 
His legal team intends to appeal the ruling, but analysts say it is another setback for religious freedom in Indonesia.  
 
Like the uproar in many Muslim-majority countries following the 2005 publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper, the case has raised debate over the distinction between freedom of expression and inciting religious hatred.
 
Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch compared Aan's sentence with the few months Islamic hardliners were given for beating three individuals to death last year in Jakarta.  He says the ruling is symbolic of deepening religious intolerance.
 
“It says a lot about the relative impunity of people that commit violence in the name of religion, meanwhile while those people who politely using no violence, no matter how controversial it is, is now being punished to 30 months in prison,” Harsono said.
 
In other acts of religious intolerance across the country this week, a national book publisher was pressured into burning hundreds of copies of a book that allegedly defames the prophet.
 
In Aceh, religious conservatives demanded the closure of 20 churches and, last week, there was a move to ban the sale of tight clothing in the sharia ruled province.
 
Earlier this month, flamboyant U.S. pop star Lady Gaga canceled the Jakarta leg of her Asian tour after Islamic hardliners threatened to block the concert.
 
Freedom of religion is technically guaranteed in the world’s most-populous Muslim nation, but Indonesians must adhere to one of the six official religions. Atheism is not a sanctioned option.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: NVO from: USA
June 18, 2012 8:52 AM
So does belief in God have intellectual warrant? Is there a rational, logical, and reasonable argument for the existence of God? Absolutely. While atheists such as Freud claim that those believing in God have a wish-fulfillment desire, perhaps it is Freud and his followers who actually suffer from wish-fulfillment: the hope and wish that there is no God, no accountability, and therefore no judgment. But refuting Freud is the God of the Bible who affirms His existence and the fact that a judgment is indeed coming for those who know within themselves the truth that He exists but suppress that truth (Romans 1:20). But for those who respond to the evidence that a Creator does indeed exist, He offers the way of salvation that has been accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13).
In Response

by: Lizard from: USA
June 20, 2012 11:10 AM
@ NVO,

Rational? Logical? You can't even use those words in the same sentence with you god. Atheist= No belief in a god Religious=Beliefs in a god with no evidence. Which one is logical with the evidence we currently have? I rest my case.

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
June 17, 2012 12:20 AM
religions are disgusting. I am glad Communist party put all religions under control. That is the only way to keep a country safe. it is like keeping tigers in the cages if you still want to keep them alive.

by: luzmejor
June 16, 2012 3:01 PM
No good deed goes unpunished. If truth were told, although people do believe in good and know it when they see it, they have seen precious little of mercy in many different sects who claim to worship goodness in any way.
Instead of traditional worship, why don't we get out and become friends of all our neighbors? That promotes the common good.

by: Tessa from: USA
June 16, 2012 10:36 AM
I'm from a country that was founded on the concepts of freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but I certainly don't want that to sink so low or get so vulgar that we start having cartoons of our politicians or religious figures having sex.

That said, release the man and have him spend time with the Islamic professor who was concerned Aan needs someone to talk with.

by: Steve from: Birmingham UK
June 16, 2012 6:50 AM
How can being openly "non religious" (atheist) be considered inciting religious hatred? Then give him 2.5 years imprisonment for it.

Religion is disgusting.
In Response

by: luzmejor from: Roswell, NM
June 18, 2012 9:10 AM
What we are fighting here is not religion. It is prejudice masquerading as religion.
Every day I see Christianity distorted ninety degrees from its actual philosophy of love and care for neighbors. It is then distorted into an evil and self-congratulatory hate machine by people who deliberately create and market hateful prejudice instead.

Of course wars are fought for nothing but monetary gain and political power by those nations' attacking armies. We all know it.
Let's get over our dread and shout that truth from the rooftops!
In Response

by: Kevin from: USA
June 17, 2012 5:33 PM
Good reply!

by: ST Hatch from: Hong Kong SAR
June 16, 2012 5:53 AM
There is a petition to press for the release of Mr. Aan on the White House website, We the People. The URL for the petition is:

http://wh.gov/lqxT

by: Austin from: Florida
June 15, 2012 1:48 PM
This is disgusting.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs