Blasphemy Law does not violate religious freedom: Hasyim

Jakarta, Indonesia - The leader of Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organization said on Wednesday that the blasphemy law did not violate the freedom of religion.

“In fact, I am more concerned for the [minority religious groups] if the law is revoked. They will be the ones who will suffer more losses,” Nahdlatul Ulama chairman Hasyim Muzadi said.

Hasyim was speaking as an expert witness in a judicial review of the 1965 Blasphemy Law at the Constitutional Court. He was called as a witness by the government.

The government and the House of Representatives oppose the judicial review of the law.

Without the law, national instability was likely, Hasyim said.

“The religious tolerance we have been building all this time will be harassed,” he told the court.

Earlier in January several NGOs and backers of pluralism requested the Constitutional Court review several articles they believed discriminatory toward religious minority groups.

The contentious articles, they said, regulate the government’s authority to dissolve religious groups whose beliefs and practices were deemed blasphemous by religious authorities.

Under the law, the government also has the authority to charge leaders and followers of suspected heretical groups with an article in the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment.

Article 1 of the Blasphemy Law stipulates that it is illegal to “intentionally publicize, recommend or organize public support for a different interpretation of a religion practiced in Indonesia, or to hold a religious ritual resembling that of another religion”.

It also says that “practicing an interpretation of a religion that deviates from the core of that religion’s teachings” is illegal.