Indonesia jails woman for 'insulting Islam' over mosque 'noise'

Ethnic Chinese Buddhist found guilty of 'insulting Islam' and jailed 18 months for complaining about mosque loudspeaker.

    Muslims make up about 85 percent of Indonesia's population of more than 260 million people [Dedi Sinuhaji/EPA]
    Muslims make up about 85 percent of Indonesia's population of more than 260 million people [Dedi Sinuhaji/EPA]

    An Indonesian court sentenced a woman to 18 months in jail under a blasphemy law for complaining that a mosque near to her home was creating too much noise during its call to prayer.

    Meiliana, 44, an ethnic Chinese Buddhist, was found guilty on Tuesday of "insulting Islam" and has been jailed for 18 months, a spokesperson for a district court in North Sumatra told reporters.

    The court in the city of Medan said her comments, made in 2016, triggered riots that saw Muslims attack Buddhist temples, AFP news agency reported.

    Meiliana's lawyer said she would appeal the verdict. Amnesty International urged the court to reverse its ruling.

    "This ludicrous decision is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression," Amnesty's executive director for Indonesia, Usman Hamid, said in a statement.

    "Sentencing someone to 18 months in prison for something so trivial is a stark illustration of the increasingly arbitrary and repressive application of the blasphemy law in the country."

    In 2015, a review into practices employed by Indonesia's estimated 800,000 mosques led by Vice President Jusuf Kalla concluded places of worship should turn down their sound systems and not broadcast lengthy sermons to avoid agitating people living nearby.

    Blasphemy

    Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of thousands of islands, has a larger Muslim population than any other country in the world, comprising about 220 million people.

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    While the country is officially pluralist, with six major religions recognised by the state, a recent rise in conservative interpretations of Islam prompted fears the blasphemy laws were being used to subjugate minorities and violate religious freedoms.

    According to Indonesia's 1965 criminal code, any person who "deliberately" abuses a religion in public may be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

    Last year, the former ethnic Chinese governor of Jakarta was jailed for two years on blasphemy charges after several Muslim groups accused him of insulting Islam.

    The ruling was widely condemned as politically motivated. 

    Is Indonesia misusing its blasphemy laws?

    Inside Story

    Is Indonesia misusing its blasphemy laws?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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