Sep 7th, 2006, in News, by

A proposed widening of the scope of anti-blasphemy laws could see atheists prosecuted.

The criminal code already contains one article outlawing blasphemy against, or criticism of, any of the major religions in Indonesia (although in practice it is usually only applied in the case of Islam). Now in proposed revisions to the overarching body of law for crime, Rancangan KUHP (RKUHP), new articles are proposed, contained within a separate chapter, Chapter VIII, and generally serving to widen the scope of laws dealing with offences against religion.

Presently the law contains only one article for blasphemy, which is not marked off from other areas of the code, that is, Article 156a, which reads:

Dipidana dengan pidana penjara selama-lamanya lima tahun barang siapa dengan sengaja di muka umum mengeluarkan
perasaan atau perbuatan:

1. yang pada pokoknya bersifat permusuhan, penyalahgunaan, atau penodaan terhadap suatu agama yang dianut di Indonesia.

2. dengan maksud agar orang tidak menganut agama apapun juga, yang bersendikan Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa.

Which translates roughly as “the maximum sentence is five years imprisonment for anyone who deliberately, in public, expresses views which either are of a hateful nature, or are a misuse of, or insult, any religion followed in Indonesia, or attempts to prevent others from adhering to any religion based on God.

In the new revision a chapter is added entitled “Tindak Pidana terhadap Agama dan Kehidupan Beragama”, Offences Against Religion and Religious Life, in which are to be found eight articles, Pasal 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, and 348, which cover the insulting of religion, agitation against belief in religion, which could mean attempts to deny God’s existence, ie atheism, attempts to disturb the holding of religious events or services, and destruction of places of worship.

Ifdhal Kasim, the Director of the “Program Hukum dan Legislasi Reform Institute”, the Legal Reform Institute, speaking at the Wahid Institute as reported by Hukum Online, on the 6th, said that the revisions represented an over-criminalisation of religious life and belief, and that this was aimed at protecting only certain religions, those acknowledged by the state of Indonesia, presumably, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Traditional, “animist”, faiths, like Javanese kejawen presumably, and other faiths generally, were not worthy of the protection of the police and state prosecutors.

Atheists were a target of the new law, said Ifdhal:

What’s more in the proposed criminal code those who become atheists or encourage others to lose faith in their religion are subject to penalties.

The relevant article, Pasal 345, reads:

Anyone who in public agitates in any form with the intention of causing the denial of belief in any religion followed in Indonesia will be subject to a jail term of not more than four years or a fine of not more than 300 million rupiah.

The regulations against the insulting of religious beliefs, as well as those against the insulting of the “greatness” of God, are unnecessary and make Indonesia seem a backward place, given that most countries in the world have abandoned attempts to provide state protection for certain doctrines of certain religions. What’s more, he says, the new law is too broad and could cause a great many people to be adjudged as violating its provisions.

He says that the only parts of the law which are worthy are those against attacks on houses of worship (article 346), or the disturbing of religious services (article 348). But he notes that only “official” religions are granted the protection of these two articles.

A leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and a member of parliamentary Komisi III, Masdar Farid Mas’udi, said that the whole issue was an extremely sensitive area and that additions to the law were needed to prevent conflict between religious groups and violent, mob actions by some. He said that the passing of the law by the parliament would unlikely occur before 2009 due to the fact that much political wheeling and dealing would take place in the meantime.


March 16th 2007.

Syarif Hidayatullah, a professor of Sharia and Law at the State Islamic University in Jakarta, worries that the proposed changes to the blasphemy laws are a double-edged sword. He says religions do not need the protection of the law. God needs no state protection, he said, only his followers do.

The planned changes to articles 341, 342, 343, and 344 of the criminal code were over-criminalising the matter and had a big potential for mis-use. Hidayatullah said the law should be revised to provide freedom of religion for all, including followers of non-recognised religions such as animism.

On the atheism as a crime question, which is in article 345, he said only those who attempt to force a person to change their religion, or stop practising it, should be punished.

21 Comments on “Atheism”

  1. Indcoup says:

    Great work.

    They may make the law but implementation is another matter. What’s going on in Malaysia with the Lina Joy case is very interesting as well.


  2. Tony says:

    “The regulations against the insulting of religious beliefs, as well as those against the insulting of the “greatness” of God”

    So, God the Almighty needs to be protected by the (human) Law….

  3. Hassan says:

    Well, the pancasila, our ideology, clearly stated “the belief in The One True God (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa)”. So, basically atheism is against our ideology, whether we like it or not.

  4. Ali says:

    I think the first principle in Pancasila should be interpreted as an acknowledgment that our nation believes in God.
    However, it doesn’t mean that all her citizens must also follow this.

    USA also has the almost identical principle in her “In God we trust”, however USA cannot force all her citizens to trust God.

    Faith is not something that can be enforced. Obedience can be enforced, but obedience is definitely different from faith.
    I can deny the existence of God but still obey all the religious law simply because I don’t want to be expelled from my society.
    The law can force people to adopt a religion and even to perform religious rituals piously, but all these cannot guarantee that there is faith in one’s heart.
    And, I think God prefers a simple man with faith than a holy man without faith.

  5. Tony says:

    Being against the ideology is not equivalent of being against the law. What if, sometime in my life I change my mind and turn into atheism or agnosticism? Am I still protected by the law? Am I still supposed to be an Indonesia citizen? Am I supposed the emigrate?

  6. Andrew says:

    Indonesia should focus on more immediate issues at hand – and yes, there are TONS of them.

    Man’s relationship with God should be left at the individual’s discretion, and not be interfered with.

  7. Fanglong says:

    Well said, Andrew : “Man’s relationship with God should be left at the individual’s discretion, and not be interfered with.”

    There are already so many topics to bother people.
    Too many reasons to punish them.
    I’m afraid — no bettering in sight !

    “Ketuhanan” (“divinity”) can be the “philosopher’s God” ?
    What about Buddhists ? They think God’s a mere concept in deluded mind ?

    And “agama Buddha” is welcome in Pancasila, isn’t it ?

  8. Fanglong says:

    And what about Balinese “polytheism” ? Even if the TrimurtI be subsumed by the Sun god…

  9. Hassan says:

    Ali, Indonesia is not the U.S. do you want Indonesia to be like the U.S.? whooo boy, are we in for a ride if we do.

    stop immitating the U.S. in everything we do. the U.S. is not such a great example to follow.

  10. Josef says:

    Why is it not?

  11. Hassan says:

    well lets see, one of the highest murder rates in the world, one of the highest rape cases, drug abuse, broken homes in the world. the only country to have killed 140.000 people in a single swipe by using nukes. a country hated the most by the majority of the world’s population. and not to mention having a president with a brain the size of a pea.

    all of that is enough to discourage any country wanting to immitate the u.s.’ ‘success story’.

  12. Andrew says:

    Simply can’t do a fair comparison of murder/rape/burglary/drug/domestic abuse/etc rates unless they are reported the same way.

    A Lebanese friend of mine told me people don’t (read: very rarely) report rape and abuse cases there, and in the Middle East in general. A friend of his got raped in Mecca but did not report the incident.

    Also, another example – the definition of “domestic abuse” itself is simply different in different parts of the world. In the US, verbally threatening your wife could book you into jail — I’m sure it’s not the case in many other countries. No doubt the rate is higher in the US.

    On the other hand, even without looking at statistics, I agree that substance abuse is higher in the US than in the Middle East. Why? freedom has got to cost you something. So does control.

    It is a matter of striking the right balance.

    Having lived in both, I know what I want, and so does my Lebanese friend.

  13. Ulf says:

    To an orthodox Christian or Jew, a Moslem is just another atheist, for those do not believe in Islam. Should Muslims be prosecuted for atheism in the Western World?

  14. Josef says:

    If someone does not believe in God and is honest about it, they are punished. If they just say they do to not be punished than they are only lieing…and to lie in your heart is a sin anyway, to lie to god is just as insulting of the “greatness” of God, don’t you think? By forcing people to lie about their faith in god we insult the greatness of god more than the person without faith.

  15. Humanism says:

    Hmm.. doesn’t that mean Buddhists will all go to jail? Agama Buddha tidak mengakui KeTuhanan yg Maha Esa, agama ini lebih menganjurkan umatnya utk mengakui ilmu pengetahuan daripada Tuhan.

  16. Soecamda says:

    If we think critically, who is well enough to know God to be interpreted on that articles definition? If someone admit that, so he should firstly, convince and prove it to others, at least to the parliament before legitimating the law.

    And about Buddhism, it is not accepting the definition of personal God, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t embrace any divinity. “Ketuhanan” means divinity, not merely “believe in one Godlike creature”. In Buddhism, we know Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Atiyoga which bring those adherent to the contemplation of singularness of awareness in a clear light. This is a prove that Buddhism has an aspect of Ketuhanan. The difference with any semitic religion is that Buddhism is not trying to dogmatized it, but penetrating it through a direct experience. Doesn’t it mean that Ketuhanan practiced in a more legitimate sense??

  17. John Doe says:

    Indonesia is a bigoted country, whether you like it or not. Pancasila is more like a rip-off of Christian and Islamic “holy” books, so no surprise there. But how can Indonesians call themselves “democratic” and “respectful of human rights” when they cannot — WILL not — respect the rights of others NOT to believe in some form of medieval fairytale and poppycock?

    You know, a plausible solution comes to mind… send off the likes of Christian televangelists and Islamic clerics to the middle east so they can rip each other’s heads off, and then we make Indonesia a better place, with only atheists, Buddhists, Hindu, and various religious minorities..

  18. Robert says:

    I don’t understand the fuss. Are the people in Indonesia standing on such shaky ground that their belief will topple that easily? And that it needs to be protected by these laws?
    I can imagine that the religious and houses of worship need protection especially against mob-attacks.
    But religion itself? It seems strange and arrogant that people put themselves above the Almighty to protect him. And that man-made books are necessary to protect religion, like Quran and Bible aren’t good enough anymore.
    And if you are an atheist you must be rather stupid to mention to others, because you know you will be ratted on by others and go to jail.

  19. Callum says:

    Does Santa Claus count as a “Ketuhanan”?

  20. Shnakepup says:

    Uh oh. My Indonesian wife realized she was an atheist after immigrating to America. She can be pretty outspoken, too…hopefully this isn’t a problem if we ever visit her home country.

  21. alonwae says:

    well, here in Indonesia, you will never see the truth if you are using the religion’s window it self. Because, what is happening is, politics, a not so smart politic’s tactics that using religion to get into a strategical position in government. It is a very democratic way, anyhow, to use the majority of uneducated people votes to bring you into the parliament and next to the government, and politicians here are realized that fact and use it as well, hehe, maybe i was wrong to say it as a not so smart tact, anyway. But, that is the way, why the article got it’s way through the constitution.

    So, hell with the religions, they don’t care about it.

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