We have previously discussed how some of our closest allies like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt routinely deny both free speech and free exercise of religion to citizens through the application of Sharia law or Islamic moral codes. The latest outrage comes from Indonesia where a court convicted Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Christian governor of the country’s capital, Jakarta, of blasphemy for challenging Islamic extremists. He was sentenced to two years in prison in a disgraceful assault on basic civil liberties and principles of both religious tolerance and free speech.
The blasphemy charge prompted widespread protests from Muslims calling for everything from his arrest to his death. It cost Basuki the election. The court went even further than the recommended sentence of the prosecutors — yielding to the Muslim mob in the streets. His defeat and conviction is viewed as a huge success for the rising Islamic fundamentalists taking over the country and seeking the adoption of Sharia law throughout the country.
Basuki, an ethnic Chinese, was only the second non-Muslim governor in the city. That was a great symbol of tolerance. However, many Muslims saw his election as an offense and campaigned on the basis that Muslims cannot vote for a non-Muslim. In a speech, Basuki tried to argue that this was a misreading of the Quran but Islamists then charged him with blasphemy for disrespecting Islam.
The five-judge panel decided unanimously that Mr. Basuki “proved legally and convincingly guilty of committing the criminal act of blasphemy.” The ruling itself however demonstrates that that these are more clerics than judges in applying such religious codes.