The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
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."