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Yudhoyono's blasphemy proposal for UN challenged

Publication Date : 25-09-2012

 

As President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono prepared to take the podium at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly to call for the adoption of an international protocol banning blasphemy, critics said that Indonesia had little moral authority to campaign on the issue.

Yudhoyono is expected to deliver his speech to the General Assembly today, making a case for the anti-blasphemy protocol, which he considers to be Indonesia's contribution to the creation of world peace.

"The theme of this year's General Assembly is peaceful conflict resolution. Indonesia will present its proposal in participation of the making of world peace," presidential spokesman for foreign affairs Teuku Faizasyah said yesterday.

Prior to his departure for New York, Yudhoyono said that Indonesia had a moral obligation to make such a call. Human rights activists, however, have criticised Indonesia's proposal for an international protocol against blasphemy.

They said that Yudhoyono should first address discrimination against religious minority groups, which continued to experience persecution that was in part caused by the existence of the country's 1965 Blasphemy Law.

"How can we expect the international community to accept such a proposal while a similar blasphemy law has been used to condone violence against minority Muslim groups such as the Ahmadiyah and Shia? We must first show the world that we can protect these minority groups at home before demanding the global community do the same," Ifdhal Kasim, chairman of an independent state body National Commission on Human Rights, or Komnas HAM, told The Jakarta Post.

Kasim said that instead of an anti-blasphemy protocol, countries needed to sit down and talk about making a resolution that could address religion-inspired violence, which was on the rise.

Choirul Anam from the Human Rights Working Group said that the government had made a retrograde proposal with the anti-blasphemy protocol. "The government is turning back the clock to 20 years ago when people could be jailed for speaking out. It would be better if the government proposed a regulation to deal with hate speech instead of blasphemy. Blasphemy is an elusive concept. How can you bring criminal charges against it? Hate speech on the contrary is clearly a crime." Earlier, the Indonesian government rejected a recommendation by the United Nations Human Rights Council (Unhcr) that Indonesia revoke laws and regulations that curb religious freedom.

The Unhcr's quadrennial "Universal Periodic Review" in May suggested that Indonesia amend or revoke laws and regulations that banned religious freedom, including the 1965 Blasphemy Law, the 1969 and 2006 ministerial decrees on the construction of places of worship and the 2008 joint ministerial decree on Ahmadiyah.

Critics say that the Blasphemy Law has been used by the government to punish minority groups in the country and could easily be used as a rallying call among mainstream Muslim communities to persecute those considered to adhere to deviant teachings.

Tajul Muluk, a Shia leader from Sampang, Madura, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment in July for blasphemy. Muluk was accused of telling his followers that the Quran was not the original scripture and the true version of the holy book would be revealed to Imam Mahdi.

According to a provisional list of speakers released by the UN media office, Yudhoyono will deliver his speech during the morning session of the first day of the general debate session, along with 14 other world leaders. While there, Yudhoyono is expected to skip today's afternoon session as he is scheduled to have a bilateral meeting with Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev.

On the sidelines of his agenda at the UN headquarters, Yudhoyono is expected to have other bilateral meetings, including with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

After meeting with Plevneliev, Yudhoyono will join UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to jointly chair the first meeting of the UN High-level Panel on Post-2015 MDGs Development Agenda.

"On the panel, Yudhoyono will promote his ideas on a 'sustainable world with equity'. The panel will discuss not only the substance or the programme on the processes of the world after 2015 when the MDGs expire but also a draft on the work plan on how the post-2015 programmes should be conducted," Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.

 

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