Sukmawati Soekarnoputri reported to police for blasphemy over poem comparing Indonesian and Islamic traditions

Sukmawati Soekarnoputri reporting firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab to the police in October 2016.
Sukmawati Soekarnoputri reporting firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab to the police in October 2016.

Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia’s first president and founding father Soekarno, is facing legal action over a poem she wrote that offended many after it was accused of being blasphemous towards Islam.

During last week’s Indonesia Fashion Week 2018 in Jakarta, Sukmawati read out her poem, titled Ibu Indonesia (Mother Indonesia), which celebrates Indonesian fashion and tradition, comparing them to Middle Eastern and Islamic traditions many have adopted in the country. Some of the contentious lines in her poem include, as translated to English:

I don’t know Islamic sharia
But I know Mother Indonesia’s konde saree is very beautiful
Prettier than your face veil

I don’t know Islamic sharia
But I know Mother Indonesia’s ballad, it’s so very elegant
More soothing than your azan (Islamic call to prayer)

This morning, Amron Ansyhari, head of the Hanura party central executive committee, along with lawyer Denny A.K., reported Sukmawati to the Jakarta Metro Police for blasphemy against Islam over what they call an extremely offensive poem.

“If I must be honest, she’s worse than Ahok,” Denny said, as quoted by Kumparan, referring to the case of former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was sentenced to two years in prison for a speech in which he warned that people were using a misguided interpretation of the Quran to fool people to not vote for him, a non-Muslim.

Islamic hardline groups like Persaudaraan Alumni 212, which was instrumental in staging mass protests against Ahok and influencing his eventual blasphemy conviction, have also indicated that they will report Sukmawati to the police for blasphemy.

Under Indonesia’s KUHP (Criminal Code), blasphemy is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

Sukmawati today responded to all the criticism towards her poem, saying that it’s an artistic expression reflecting truths from the perspective of many women across the archipelago.

“But it’s reality. I did not insult race, ethnicity, or religions. In the poem, I created a story. Writing a poem is like writing a story. I’m a cultural expert, I dive into the minds of people from regions that don’t understand Islamic sharia, like in Eastern Indonesia, Bali, and other regions,” she told Detik.

“About the ballad being more beautiful than the azan, that’s acceptable [to say]. Not all who perform the azan have melodic voices. That’s fact. This is about the art of vocals.”

In 2016, Sukmawati reported firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab to the police for making insulting remarks about her father and Pancasila, Indonesia’s philosophical foundation. Rizieq was eventually named a suspect for insulting state symbols, which is punishable by up to four years in prison by law, but he has since become a fugitive in Saudi Arabia escaping investigations for this case and his infamous pornography case.

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