The state has no right to declare a teaching heretic
February 20, 2010 7:18am CST
Contentious articles bearing no clear definition of blasphemous acts in the 1965 law on religious blasphemy pose a threat to press freedom, with many journalists having been charged with the articles, a discussion heard. Ariyanto, a managing editor with Indopos media group, said Thursday that the press should pay close attention to a judicial review request of the law currently being processed at the Constitutional Court. The request was filed with the court by several NGOs in support of pluralism in October last year. Three hearings have been held with the last two presenting expert witnesses sharing their views on the law. Senior journalist Arswendo Atmowiloto also spoke before the court. He shared his experience some 20 years ago when he had to serve a four-and-a-half- year prison sentence after a court found him guilty of a blasphemous act. He was then editor-in-chief of the tabloid Monitor, which in 1990 released the results of a popularity poll that ranked Prophet Muhammad in 11th place, below himself. Ariyanto said Arswendo's case is an example of how the law violates press freedom. He cited the case of the late H.B. Jassin, a prominent writer who was then an editor of Sastra literary magazine. Jassin published a controversial short story in 1968 that narrated the Prophet Muhammad's reincarnation titled Langit Makin Mendung (The Sky Turns Cloudier), which later ended in him receiving a suspended sentence for blasphemy. "We in the media find [having this law in effect] unsettling because we can be charged with these articles. This is dangerous and not just a rumor; it can happen to any journalist," Ariyanto said. The discussion was organized by SeJuK, an association of journalists for pluralism. Ariyanto's argument was one of many supporting a review of the 45-year-old law. In the discussion, noted Muslim intellectual Dawam Rahardjo gave another opinion, saying it was not the state's function to protect religious education. "Religious education takes many forms and ideologies. If the state wanted to protect religious education, which of the teachings should it protect? The majority's teaching? Can anyone tell if there are more conservative or liberals among Muslims in Indonesia?" Yosep Adi Prasetyo, a commissioner at the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas-HAM) , said the state could only intervene if a religious movement created public disturbances, threatened public health, caused moral degradation among the public or the followers and violated human rights. The state, however, has no right to declare a teaching heretic, irrespective of what the majority of the public felt, Yosep said.
• Lancaster, New Hampshire
20 Feb 10
Great discusion! In the U.S. no law could even be written against "religious blasphemy" Such a thing would be a clear violation of the 1st amandment of our cosntitution which guarantees both freedom of the press and freedom from regulation of religion.