A young woman in Central Lombok regency, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) was apprehended by the authorities last night over her viral TikTok video, which may see her charged under Indonesia’s blasphemy law.
Using a disco light filter for the video, the 19-year-old Ria Ernawanti — who donned a mukena (a cloak covering the entirety of a woman’s head and body worn for prayer) — demonstrated sholat (Islamic prayer) only to stop in the middle of it to dance to the beat of the music in the background, presumably a dangdut koplo song. According to the caption, she resumed praying as her husband arrived home.
The video of Ria being taken into a police car is split into in the first and second slides of the Instagram post below, while her apology video and the TikTok video in question is in the third and fourth slides.
“While praying, suddenly a neighbor played a DJ’s song. [So I’m dancing] instead of being khusyuk (focused, praying wholeheartedly), but my husband suddenly came home,” the caption in the video reads.
Ria was taken to the Central Lombok Police last night for questioning, in which she reportedly told authorities that she made the video just for fun.
“The Loteng Police along with Kopang Police officers apprehended the suspect who made a video containing elements of tribal, racial, and religious discrimination or an insult towards a certain religion embraced in Indonesia in a TikTok account with the handle yott.kocet.01, the virality of which has upset the public due to the suspect’s disgraceful actions in the video” Central Lombok Police’s Crime Investigation Unit Chief Priyo Suhartono told Detik today.
Priyo said that Ria could potentially be charged with blasphemy, but police are still waiting for a statement from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the highest clerical body in the country, which could be used as expert testimony against Ria.
Blasphemy is a serious crime in Indonesia, but vague wordings in its legislation has made it prone to be used as a political tool and to persecute religious minorities in recent years. Arguably the most infamous blasphemy conviction was given to former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2017 simply for warning the public not to trust officials who quote the Quran to convince them not to vote for non-Muslim politicians.
Since Ahok’s case, application of the blasphemy law spiked dramatically in Indonesia, but the vast majority of charges and convictions under the law were used against members of minority religious faiths who allegedly blasphemed Islam, and rarely the other way around.
But Muslims have also been prosecuted for defaming their own religion. Just last week, a man from Surabaya, East Java was charged with blasphemy for altering the lyrics to a hit contemporary Islamic song titled Aisha Istri Rasulullah (Aisha the wife of the Prophet). He changed a portion of the lyrics to suggest that Aisha drank wine with her husband, with the video appearing to show that the man was also drinking wine.
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