Executives from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's largest Muslim organizations, have criticized the blasphemy conviction against Meliana, a resident of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, for complaining about the volume of adzan (a call to prayer).
NU legal division head Robikin Emhas said that saying adzan was too loud did not constitute blasphemy as defined in articles 156 and 156a of the Criminal Code.
"I do not see how saying 'adzan is too loud' is an expression of hatred or hostility toward a particular group or religion," Robikin said in a statement on Tuesday.
He added that he hoped authorities would refrain from using the blasphemy article as "an instrument to suppress freedom of expression".
"As Muslims, we should consider such opinions as constructive criticism in a plural society," he said.
Muhammadiyah secretary Abdul Mu’ti agreed, suggesting that an in-depth study should be conducted to review the blasphemy-related articles and laws. He further argued that the provisions were vague and open to interpretation.
Furthermore, one-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down against Meiliana was “too heavy”, he added.
“I assume that [Meiliana’s] case is similar to that of [former Jakarta governor] Ahok […] in which [the blasphemy conviction] is more of a result of pressure from the masses instead of the trial,” Abdul said.
The groups' position is in contrast to that of the Indonesian Ulema Council's (MUI) North Sumatra chapter, which issued a fatwa in January 2017 declaring Meiliana's statement as blasphemous. (ahw)