Here’s what Human Rights Watch has to say about the Indonesian Constitutional Court’s decision to uphold the 1965 blasphemy law, which outlaws all beliefs that deviate from the orthodox traditions of Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism and Confucianism:
Indonesia’s Constitutional Court dealt a severe blow to religious freedom by upholding a controversial law prohibiting “blasphemy,” Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch urged the Indonesian government to revoke this and other laws that infringe upon the rights to freedom of religion, belief, and conscience.
The court, in an 8-1 decision on April 19, 2010, ruled that the blasphemy law, which provides criminal penalties for those who express religious beliefs that deviate from the central tenets of the six officially recognized religions, is a lawful restriction of minority religious beliefs because it allows for the maintenance of public order.
“The Constitutional Court’s decision on the blasphemy law poses a real threat to the beliefs of Indonesia’s religious minorities,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “If President Yudhoyono is serious about promoting religious pluralism in Indonesia, he should work to have this law and others like it taken off the books.”
At the opening of the Sixth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy on April 12, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spoke with pride about Indonesia’s democratic development, proclaiming: “We in Indonesia have shown, by example, that Islam, democracy, and modernity can grow together. We are a living example that there is no conflict between a Muslim’s spiritual obligation to Allah SWT [and] his civic responsibility as a citizen in a pluralist society” …
“Indonesia’s laws should protect those who peacefully express religious views and punish those who threaten to use violence against others, not the other way around,” Pearson said. “If the government wants to prevent violence, it should send a message by punishing violent behavior.”
Indonesia’s 1945 constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion in article 28(E). Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in 2006, states are to respect the right to freedom of religion. This right includes “freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” Restrictions on the right to freedom of religion to protect public safety or order must be strictly necessary and proportional to the purpose being sought.
The ruling was also condemned by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which warned it would embolden Islamic extremists.