Doubting God, Going to Prison, by: J. Cochrane

Happening, on the OTHER side of the “white picket fences”, from The New York Times International Weekly…

Jakarta, Indonesia—Growing up in a conservative Muslim household in rural West Sumatra, Alexander Aan hid a dark secret beginning at age nine: He did not believe in God.  His feelings only hardened as he got older and he faked his way through daily prayers, Islamic holidays and the fasting month of Ramadan.

He stopped praying in 2008, when he was twenty-six, and he finally told his family that he was an atheist—a rare revelation in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.  They responded with disappointment and expressions of hope that he would return to Islam.

But Mr. Aan neither returned to Islam nor confined his secret to his family, and he ended up in prison, after running afoul of a 2008 law restricting electronic communications.  He had joined a Facebook group for atheists started by Indonesian living in the Netherlands, and in 2011 he began posting commentaries outlining why he did not think God existed.

“When I saw, with my own eyes, poor people, people on television caught in war, people who were hungry or ill, it made me uncomfortable,” Mr. Aan, now thirty-two, said in an interview.  “What is the meaning of this?  As a Muslim, I had questioned God—what is the meaning of God?”  He was released on parole in January after serving more than nineteen months on a charge inciting religious hatred.

“What I posted was for discussion, not to incite hatred,” he said in the interview.

Indonesia’s state ideology, Pancasila, enshrines monotheism, and blasphemy is illegal.  However, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and speech, and the country is sixteen years into a transition from authoritarianism to democracy.

But Mr. Aan’s case is one of an interesting number of instances of persecution connected to freedom of religion in Indonesia in recent years.  Although Indonesia has influential Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities, every year, there have been hundred of episodes, including violent attacks, targeting religious minorities like Christians and Shiite and Ahmadiyah Muslims, as well as dozens of arrests over blasphemy against Islam.  Numerous churches have been closed for lacking proper permits.

According to human rights organizations and various surveys, religious intolerance is on the rise in Indonesia, at least partly because of the growing influence of radical Islamic groups.

Mr. Aan’s troubles began in January 2012 when a mob in the Dharmasraya district of West Sumatra showed up looking for him at a government planning office where he worked as a data analyst.

“They wanted me to stoop saying there’s no God,” he said, “I told them that it was my right to express my beliefs.”

Police officers were called to prevent any violence, and they instead, escorted Mr. Aan to the local police station, where he found himself being interrogated and, within hours, charged with disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred.  The next day, he was charged with blasphemy and inciting others to embrace atheism, charges that were later dropped.

“It’s funny—we say we have freedom of expression, but it’s only up to a certain point,” said Enda Nasution, an Indonesian blogger.  “I think we are absorbing all of these new norms, and with the Internet, we are experimenting with what we can and cannot do.  Atheism is a no-no, it seems.”

Mr. Aan said his case was one of both religious and human rights issues, “both because it’s a developing country and new democracy.”

He added, “I was just searching for the truth, and eve4rything I felt, I expressed.”

And you still got jailed for VOICING your beliefs, and, this still just isn’t happening IN those Third World Developing Nations out there, it’s happening in the CIVILIZED world (no offense!!!), just like the cases in the book, In Our Defense, there are still so many WRONGS being done, people being PERSECUTED for speaking their minds (freedom of speech, hello, hello, hello???), and those who don’t share OUR same religious belief systems are still getting CRUCIFIED (there goes, the freedom of R-E-L-I-G-I-O-N???), and you are still DUMB enough to falsely believe, that you live in a free world?  GROW UP already, and SEE the truth, and this article still didn’t just come out of MY imagination, someone ELSE found it first, and I’m just RE-reporting it.




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Filed under Belief in a Just World, Life, Observations, Perspectives, Properties of Life, Religions, Validity of the News, Values, Wake Up Calls

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