The Jakarta Post
The Anti-Discrimination Struggle Movement (GANDI) is the latest rights group to condemn the blasphemy conviction of Meiliana, a Buddhist resident of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, for complaining about the volume of the adzan (Muslim call to prayer).
The Medan District Court found Meiliana, 44, guilty of blasphemy under Articles 156 and 156a of the Criminal Code on Tuesday and sentenced her to 18 months in prison.
She reportedly said the adzan was too loud and hurt her ears in July 2016, triggering an anti-Chinese riot in which offended Muslims torched several Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai.
GANDI secretary-general Ahmad Ari Masyhuri said Meiliana’s statement was far from the definition of blasphemy in the criminal code, likening it to a statement made by Vice President Jusuf Kalla about the volume of mosques’ loudspeakers.
Kalla, who is also head of the Indonesia Mosque Council, criticized the excessive volume of some mosques’ speakers in 2015, saying that the noise disturbed both Muslims and non-Muslims.
“Looking at the statement that Meiliana is accused of making, in substance there is no difference in what the head of the Indonesian Mosque Council, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, once said,” Ari said in a statement on Thursday. “So, which part is blasphemous?”
Ari called on the government and the House of Representatives to quickly revise the blasphemy laws, saying that they were too open to interpretation.
“It is too risky for such a diverse nation to be mired in blasphemy articles that can be interpreted in so many ways,” he said.
Rights advocacy group the Setara Institute agreed, adding that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration had failed to act firmly against intolerance over the past four years.
“Instead of taking real action to guarantee the freedom of religion, Jokowi has only disbanded organizations like Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, more for political reasons rather than genuinely defending religious freedom,” the institute’s chairman, Hendardi, said in a statement. (swd)