Human rights advocates and interfaith groups came together last week in Jakarta, Indonesia, to show support for a woman who was jailed on blasphemy charges.
Meiliana, a 44-year-old ethnically Chinese Buddhist, spoke to an imam’s son in her neighborhood in 2016 about the volume of the local mosque’s call to prayer. The case soon spiraled into rumors that she said blasphemous things about Islam, which led to her arrest.
Rumadi Ahmad, a senior member of Nadlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim group in Indonesia, said Meiliana’s actions were not blasphemous in accordance with the fundamental principles of the law, VOA News reported. He added that most judges do not comprehend the meaning of blasphemy.
Buddhist organisation Niciren Syosyu Indonesia’s Suhadi Sendjaja said the sentencing was not from Islamic authorities but from a law imposed by the president, which applies to everyone.
According to statistics from Amnesty International, 106 people have been charged with blasphemy and were sentenced between 2005 and 2014. The Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslim minorities have reportedly been targeted and described as “deviant” by the Sunni majority.
President Joko Widodo suggested Meiliana appeal to the Supreme Court as he said his hands were tied and he cannot intervene.
A law lecturer at the University of Indonesia has come out and said the use of blasphemy laws in the country was a tool for politicizing religion.