Atheist Ireland condemns the jail sentence imposed today on Indonesian civil servant Alexander Aan for sharing material on Facebook about the Prophet Mohammad. The law should protect people from harm, and not protect ideas from criticism.
We ask all Irish people to contact the Indonesian embassy demanding his immediate release, and to ask the Irish Government to urgently raise the issue with the Indonesian authorities.
Atheist Alliance International, of which Atheist Ireland is a member, has also condemned the conviction, and has published this list of contact details of Indonesian authorities.
In Ireland, Senator Ivana Bacik and Senator Jillian Von Turnhout have raised Aan’s case in the Seanad in February, and called on the Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore to raise the issue with the Indonesian authorities.
Cases like this also show the urgency of Ireland repealing our own new blasphemy law. Islamic states led by Pakistan have praised the new Irish law at the United Nations. And when the Indonesian blasphemy law was constitutionally challenged in 2010, the existence of the new Irish blasphemy law was cited in its support.
Alexander Aan is a 32-year-old Indonesian civil servant who started an atheist group on Facebook on which he published articles about Mohammad and questioned the existence of God. He was beaten up by his work colleagues then arrested for blasphemy. He was today jailed for two and a half years and fined Rp 100m (about $10,000).
Aan was originally charged with blasphemy and persuading others to embrace atheism, but was instead convicted under the Electronic Information and Transactions Law of deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity.
This shows the dangers of mixing the ideas of blasphemy and incitement to religious hatred, as prosectors can easily interchange one with the other. The law should protect people, not ideas. And it should protect people from actual harm, but not from being offended.
Atheist Ireland has consistently highlighted this case as part of our overall campaign to repeal blasphemy laws, including in this talk by Michael Nugent at the European Atheist Convention in Cologne in Germany last month, on the topic ‘Why we must combat blasphemy laws’.