Archipelago

Atheist civil servant arrested
for blasphemy

A 30 year-old civil servant in the Dharmasraya regency of West Sumatra, identified as Alexander, was arrested Friday for blasphemy after creating a Facebook fan page titled Ateis Minang (Minang Atheist), which was labeled ‘liked’ by some 1,238 Facebook users. 

Dharmasraya Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Chairul Azis said that the man was arrested because of his writings on the fan page and his direct statements saying that he did not believe in God.

“He has triggered unrest among local residents,” Chairul told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Alexander is facing a maximum sentence of five years in jail if proven guilty.

On the fan page, Alexander, who acknowledges Islam as his religion on his identity card, says that he is an atheist of Minang descent from Padang, West Sumatra, which is a Muslim stronghold. 

Alexander also declared that he did not believe in angels, devils, heaven and hell, as well as other ‘myths’.

“He said he realized what he had said and was prepared to lose his job to defend his beliefs,” Chairul said.

A number of residents came to Alexander’s office in Pulau Punjung, Dharmasraya, on Wednesday, and attacked him before he was taken to the Dharmasraya Police office. He is now in police custody.

Dharmasraya Regent Adi Gunawan said that he had yet to decide whether or not Alexander would be dismissed from his post within the Dharmasraya Development Planning Board.

“I will await the legal process and decide later about his employment status,” Adi said, pointing out that Alexander, who had worked for Bappeda since 2010, had not yet been granted permanent status.

The regent said that Alexander told him that he had learned about atheism while studying at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java.

“I told him that there was no place in this country for his beliefs,” he said.

Indonesia acknowledges six official religions, comprising of Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhism and Confucianism.

The regent further said that he would take additional steps to strengthen religious understanding among civil servants working in his region, adding that he had not yet found any other atheist civil servants.

A movement demanding the release of Alexander has appeared on the Ateis Minang fan page, with which some 432 Facebook users have contended by supporting another movement titled “Gerakan 10,000 Urang Minang Memblokir Ateis Minang” (10,000 Minang People Resisting Ateis Minang). (swd)

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