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Jakarta Post

Jakarta Police to question lecturer for likening holy books to fiction

  • Nurul Fitri Ramadhani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, January 30, 2019   /   02:53 pm
Jakarta Police to question lecturer for likening holy books to fiction His remark has sparked controversy among a public that was still reeling from controversy surrounding former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was accused of and later convicted of blasphemy for a remark about a Quranic verse. (Shutterstock/File)

The Jakarta Police will question philosophy lecturer and government critic Rocky Gerung on Thursday over a remark he made last year, in which he referred to holy books as works of “fiction”.

Rocky, who once taught philosophy at the University of Indonesia, made a case during a TV talk show last year that fiksi (fiction), particularly in political parlance, was now considered a pejorative term in Indonesia, while it was in fact an important tool for stimulating the imagination. 

“If I use the notion that fiction activates the imagination, then holy books are [works of] fiction, because they are not yet conclusive [...]. The function of fiction is to activate the imagination, to encourage us to be more imaginative. And now that word is being slain by politicians,” he said.

His remark has sparked controversy among a public that was still reeling from controversy surrounding former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was accused of and later convicted of blasphemy for a remark about a Quranic verse.

In colloquial Indonesian, the word fiksi rarely refers to literature or the power of storytelling and is often associated with lies and deceit. His critics argued that likening holy books to fiction was, therefore, blasphemous.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono confirmed on Wednesday that Rocky had been summonsed for questioning.

“[This is] an invitation for clarification over a report made by Jack Boyd,” Argo told The Jakarta Post. He was referring to Jack Boyd Lapian, secretary-general of the Cyber Indonesia community organization, which reported Rocky for blasphemy last year.

Democratic Party deputy secretary-general Rachland Nashidik claimed that Jack was a “hard-line” supporter of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Rocky, once known as a philosopher and public intellectual, is now considered one of the staunchest critics of the Jokowi administration.

Should police charge Rocky with blasphemy, he would add to the list of antigovernment figures facing a similar fate to Ahok, who completed his jail sentence last week.