United Nations recommends that Indonesia abolish its blasphemy law

Ahok supporters in Berlin. Photo: Twitter / @edtrellayvi
Ahok supporters in Berlin. Photo: Twitter / @edtrellayvi

Ever since former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was found guilty and sentenced to 2-years in jail last week for allegedly insulting Islam, critics within Indonesia and around the world have spoken out against the country’s blasphemy law, which they argue is prone to political manipulation and being used to unjustly persecute religious minorities.

The latest condemnation of Indonesia’s blasphemy law comes from none other than the free world’s official arbiter on human rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR). Yesterday, Indonesia’s representative to the OHCHR, Hasan Kleib, acknowledged that he had received a recommendation that Indonesia’s blasphemy laws be abolished.

“There is a request to abolish laws such as the one regarding blasphemy in order to eliminate religious intolerance,” Hasan said at the office of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights in Jakarta yesterday as quoted by Tempo.

Such requests from the OHCHRare not usual nor are UN member countries required to follow them. Indeed, the recommendation to abolish the blasphemy law was just one of 225 recommendation given following the OHCHR’s recent Universal Periodic Review of member countries’ human rights records.

The director general of human rights at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Mualimin Abdi, said Indonesia received several other recommendations, including the abolition of the death penalty and laws allowing for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. He said his ministry would soon discuss the recommendations with relevant government institutions.

Normally we would say that a recommendation from the UNHCR would have very little impact on the government’s considerations. Many Indonesian political and religious leaders have, in the past, expressed anger at the UN for actions or programs that they perceived as offensive to local culture and characterized it as a tool of western imperialism.

And here’s a video from some time ago of the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Rizieq Shihab, shouting vulgar insults about the UN at a rally.


However, Rizieq recently had a change of heart. His lawyer said this week that the FPI leader, who is currently in Saudi Arabia in order to avoid questioning by the Indonesian police in regards to a pornography case, had recently met with a OHCHR representative in Malaysia and that he was planning to ask for the UN to protect him from being “criminalized” by the Indonesian government for political purposes.

Considering that Rizieq now believes the OHCHR is a human rights authority that should be respected, we’re sure that he and all of his FPI supporters will fully support the council’s recommendation that Indonesia’s blasphemy law be repealed. Otherwise, they’d be huge hypocrites, and we all know how principled and upstanding Rizieq and the FPI are, right?

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