Indonesian TV host Andre Taulany accused of blasphemy for remark about Prophet Muhammad, hardline group seeks prosecution despite apology

Indonesian comedian and TV host Andre Taulany. Photo: Instagram/@andreastaulany
Indonesian comedian and TV host Andre Taulany. Photo: Instagram/@andreastaulany

A video from 2017 featuring comedian and TV host Andre Taulany has triggered outrage that could lead to Indonesia’s highest-profile blasphemy case since that of former Jakarta Governor Basuki “BTP” Tjahaja Purnama.

On Saturday, Andre was reported to the Jakarta Metro Police by a lawyer named Sulistyowati over a video from two years ago from a talk show on Net TV that Andre hosted. The clip, which recently resurfaced and went viral, shows Andre offhandedly asking, seemingly as a joke, if the Prophet Muhammad’s body was a garden after a guest mentioned that the prophet’s body smelled like 1,000 flowers.

Following the police report, that same Saturday Andre went to the headquarters of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) — the highest clerical body in the country — in Jakarta to admit his fault and issue a public apology to the country’s Muslims.

“God forbid if I were to insult my own prophet, the prophet to us all, Muhammad,” Andre said in his apology as quoted by Detik, while confessing that he did not know better at the time.

 

Andre added that he would be ready to face any legal consequences from his words should police press the matter further.

The MUI, represented by head of Islamic teaching Cholil Nofis, accepted Andre’s apology and his admission that it was a mistake, but urged the public not to involve religion in comedy.

“We hope that all habibs, ulemas, and followers of Islam can accept his apology. We can use this case as an example to learn,” Cholil said, as quoted by Detik.

Despite Andre’s apology, there have been no reports yet about whether or not the police report against Andre has been pulled. In fact, Persaudaraan 212 (PA 212), a hardliner group that held mass protests against BTP for his alleged blasphemy in 2016, says that it also plans to report Andre to the police over the same video.

“I am only one of many who were hurt by Andre, because the prophet was turned into material for a joke. Truthfully, I was in tears when I saw that video, so, personally, I accept his apology but let the law proceed [in this case],” PA 212 advocate Dedi Suhardadi told reporters yesterday, as quoted by Detik.

It’s not known who brought up the controversial video from the past, but it has certainly added to Andre’s recent troubles, which began when his wife was reported to the police two weeks ago for calling presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto — who is expected to lose to incumbent President Joko Widodo according to the ongoing official vote tally — “insane” on Instagram. The police appear to have dropped the charges against her after they said there was no way to prove that she uploaded the post herself.

 

That said, Andre at least has the backing of the MUI in his case. Unlike Andre, in 2016 the MUI issued a fatwa (religious edict) declaring that BTP had committed blasphemy by saying that some officials use the Quran to trick Muslims into not voting for non-Muslim politicians. The fatwa became ammunition for Islamic hardline groups to stage mass protests against BTP, and the man most instrumental in passing that fatwa, MUI Chairman Ma’ruf Amin, eventually became President Jokowi’s running mate in the 2019 election.

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CITY: JAKARTACATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: RELIGION

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