Blasphemy laws protect religion from legitimate scrutiny

 Yesterday we shared a great article about Indonesian Atheists and its work to stand up for rational thought in Indonesia.  Today we heard that an Indonesian man has been bashed and may be charged with blasphemy after he posted "God does not exist" on his Facebook page.  Blasphemy laws restrict free speech in an effort to protect religion from legitimate scrutiny and criticism.  If religion could actually withstand rational appraisal it wouldn't need such protection.

‘God Does Not Exist’ Comment Ends Badly for Indonesia Man

Original published in The Jakarta Globe

An Indonesian civil servant who posted “God does not exist” on his Facebook page has been taken into police custody for his own protection after he was badly beaten.

The man, identified as Alexander, 31, now faces the prospect of losing his job, or even being jailed, if he fails to repent and accept one of six official state religions.

Blasphemy carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Local media reported that when Alexander arrived at work at the Dharmasraya Development Planning Board (Bappeda) on Wednesday, a group of men, also understood to comprise government officials, attacked and beat him before police arrived and took him into protective custody.

Dharmasraya Police Chief Sr. Comr. Chairul Aziz told the Jakarta Globe that Alexander moderated a Facebook account titled “Ateis Minang” (Minang Atheists) and had written an update that “God does not exist.”

Chairul said he could not confirm the reports that Alexander was attacked but say that he had taken into protective custody to “anticipate anarchy.”

“Besides, he is also afraid of being intimidated or hurt.”

Alexander was quoted by Padangekspres.co.id as saying that he did not believe in God because of the amount of crime and disasters.

“If God indeed exists, why do bad things happen,” he was quoted as saying. “There should only be good things if God is merciful.”

Alexander said he was born a Muslim but ceased religious activities in 2008.

“I have no idea what the problem is. When I arrived at the office, a mob came and beat me, and took me to the police.”

Aziz said police would wait for a recommendation from the West Sumatra Coordinating Agency to Supervise Religion and Beliefs (Bakorpakem) as well as the Ministry of Religious Affairs before deciding on further action against Alexander.

“If they consider what he did was blasphemy, we will charge him.”

Gusrizal Gazahar, head of the West Sumatera chapter of the Council of Ulema (MUI), told local media that if he refused to repent, Alexander should lose his job.

“I want him to be fired,” he said.