Indonesian Blasphemy Conviction for Complaining About Mosque's Loud Call to Prayer

My Spanish blasphemy post reminded that I've been meaning to blog about the Indonesian decision, handed down last month.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Many news sources have reports, the University of Melbourne's Indonesia at Melbourne has an unusually detailed one; here's an excerpt, though the whole thing is worth reading:

Late last month, Indonesia's controversial Blasphemy Law (Law 1/PNPS/1956) claimed another victim. Meiliana, a 44-year-old ethnic Chinese Buddhist woman from Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Medan District Court for complaining about the volume of the call to prayer at her neighbourhood mosque.

The case first came to national attention in mid-2016,(link is external) when rioters attacked several Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai, a small city south of the provincial capital of Medan. The incident was initially reported as an ethno-religious conflict, sparked by a Chinese Indonesian woman's comments, which were viewed as insults directed at a religious symbol. The case then evolved into a blasphemy case after rioters were sentenced in early 2017.

The Paramadina Center for the Study of Religion and Democracy (PUSAD Paramadina) sent a team of researchers to the field to interview key stakeholders, including members of the local community, police, religious leaders, and politicians. Here we recount the series of events that led to conflict and look at how a neighbourhood dispute turned into a riot, and finally resulted in a blasphemy conviction….

Meiliana never suspected that her few words of complaint could spark a riot. On 22 July 2016, at 7am, she complained to the owner of a food stall, Kasini (also known as Uo), about the volume of the speaker at the Al Maksum Mosque, across the road from the house she had rented for eight years in Tanjung Balai.

Meiliana told local organisation the United North Sumatra Alliance (Aliansi Sumut Bersatu) that her complaint was simple: "Uo," she said, "the speaker from the mosque never used to be so loud, now it seems quite noisy". According to Meiliana, Uo simply agreed with her….

The complaint led to a riot by outraged Muslims (many of whom apparently heard an inaccurate version of the story), and then to the prosecution of Meiliana, as well as of some of the rioters. But "Meiliana was sentenced to 18 months in prison for insulting a religious symbol. Rioters involved in attacks on Buddhist temples and other symbols of Chinese culture received prison sentences of just 1-4 months."

NEXT: Trump Claims He's 'Never' Called Anyone 'Mentally Retarded.' Wrong.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I am compelled to say it, share your sacred heart. /seriously

    1. what I mean by “compelled”, is that I feel like I have sudden-onset OCD /seriously

  2. I think what annoys me the most about blasphemy and apostasy laws is the idea that you can convert into the favored religion, but not convert out of it into either a disfavored religion or no religion. It’s the asymmetry, the unbalanced aspect that seems so bizarre. And then there’s the fact that their ancestors at some point must have been heathens and apostates of some sort for not having invented the religion sooner.

    There’s also the hypocrisy of pretending that there is only one true version of the favored religion, such as Shiite vs Sunni, or all the other even more blasphemous versions. Christians seem to have settled on at least not killing each other over their differences, even Catholic vs Protestant. but it took a while. Maybe the Muslims will become a peaceful religion in another 5 or 6 centuries.

  3. I guess Islam is not the religion of peace and quiet.

    1. It’s a form of superstition that precipitates good and bad, much like any other flavor of religion.

  4. Islam does not care if your association is voluntary. Compulsory membership, with the threat of death, to keep the membership is just fine. Those of the most tenuous faith fear others question truth, lest they themselves have to question where they themselves stand.

  5. It’s not the religion part here that’s wrong (although all religions are supported by ignorant, scared, weak individuals).

    It’s the GOVERNMENT protection of the religion and persecution of an individual which is the problem.

    That’s why here in the US we must always be vigilant to keep ANY religious biased laws out of government–including any and all government officials’ endorsement of any religion while acting in their official capacity.

    They want to be idiots in their own time? Go for it. But keep that garbage out of government business.

  6. Before we moved in together, my wife lived in her grandmother’s house in Medan which was right behind a mosque, and yes, that thing was horribly loud. Could not hold a conversation with her over the phone while it was going on

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.