AAI URGES INDONESIA TO REVIEW LAWS ON BLASPHEMY & RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION
Atheist Alliance International (AAI) urges the Indonesian government to review its laws that restrict freedom of speech in light of the unjust sentence of Alexander Aan, an atheist who was persecuted and jailed for expressing his views and who is now seeking recourse with the nation’s Supreme Court.
In January 2012, Aan was attacked by a mob after posting “God does not exist” on his Facebook wall. While his assailants received no reprimand, Aan was taken into police custody and, in June, was sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment for "disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility."
“While we are hopeful that Alexander will find justice with his appeal, it remains an outrageous affront to human dignity and intellectual freedom that he was ever imprisoned,” said AAI President Carlos A. Diaz. “In order to ensure that this type of travesty does not happen again, it’s imperative that the Indonesian government take action to nullify or replace the unjust laws that have enabled his persecution.”
The imprisonment of Aan, whom Amnesty International has recognized as a “prisoner of conscience,” is contrary to international norms and universal human rights. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief has maintained that “the right to freedom of religion or belief does not include the right to have a religion or belief that is free from criticism or ridicule.”
Atheist Alliance International (AAI) urges governments and the international community, in the strongest possible terms, to support freedom of expression and conscience by objecting to any proposed anti-blasphemy resolutions or restrictions on the free exchange of ideas.
Member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are seeking a UN resolution criminalising the defamation of religion, a proposal that has in the past been resisted by organisations and governments concerned with freedom of expression and human rights. These OIC governments are exploiting the recent violence that erupted following the posting of a video on YouTube that many Muslims find insulting to Mohammed.
“AAI is deeply concerned that the UN member states will overreact to recent protests and violence in Muslim-majority countries – violence which itself is a grotesque overreaction to an amateur video of dubious origin – by endorsing anti-blasphemy resolutions during the General Assembly and within the UN Human Rights Council. Such steps would gravely undermine freedoms of expression and conscience, would give unwarranted privilege to religious viewpoints, and - most dangerously - would provide a veil of legitimacy for governments to oppress citizens in the name of protecting religion,” said President Carlos A. Diaz.
Versão em Português abaixo
Atheist Alliance International (AAI) will sponsor up to 100 students to attend the First Secular Humanist Congress, to be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 8 - 9 September. Hosted by the Secular Humanist League of Brazil (LiHS), an AAI Member, the Congress will give students the opportunity to hear from leading atheist and humanist speakers, meet like-minded people and explore ways respond to the negative influence of religion in government and society.
Carlos A. Diaz, AAI President said "Students are an important part of the next generation of voters and workers in Brazil and AAI is proud to sponsor their attendance. This is the first time AAI has supported a convention in Latin America and we are excited by this opportunity to support atheism and secularism in the region."
AAI will be represented at the Congress by President Carlos A. Diaz and Director Alexandre Shimono.
Atheist Alliance International (AAI) has launched a scholarship fund for imprisoned atheist Alexander Aan to support his intention to study outside Indonesia after his eventual release. Aan was attacked and arrested in January 2012 after posting 'God does not exist' and articles and cartoons about Islam on Facebook. He was convicted by an Indonesian court on 14 June 2012, sentenced to two years and six months jail and fined Rp100 million (c.US$10,600).
“Alexander is a prisoner of conscience who has lost his job and been taken away from his friends and family simply for stating his views.” said AAI President Carlos A. Diaz. “Through thisscholarship fund, we wish to support Alexander's quest to broaden his mind, in an environment that values freedom of thought and expression. We call on the Indonesian government to promptly free Alexander and ensure that freedom of expression and freedom of religion - including the freedom to be non-religious - are supported in Indonesia.”
Indonesia currently requires that all citizens identify themselves as belonging to one of six state-recognized religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. In addition to prosecuting Aan, the government has cracked down on minority sects and on religions seen as ‘apostates’ of Islam.
Atheist Alliance International is continuing its appeal for funds to assist with Alexander Aan's legal expenses and support his family while he is in jail. Donations for the legal defense fundand scholarship fund can be made at http://www.atheistalliance.org/support-aai/donate.