Man Arrested For ‘Being Atheist’
By Luke Hunt, The Diplomat
As the international community sharpens its focus on Burma and its “opening-up” amid the ongoing release of political prisoners, its near neighbors appear to be heading in another direction.
Among them is Indonesia, which has enhanced its reputation over recent years through its improved handling of human rights, but has raised more than eyebrows when police arrested a 31-year-old atheist for blasphemy.
This was according to an interpretation by police and irritated district officials that Alexander Aan had committed blasphemy for writing “God does not exist…” on the social networking website, Facebook.
The charge also had much to do with mob rule. Local Muslims in the West Sumatra district where Aan lived were typically outraged, and attacked him for his comment while he was going to work. Their anger led to the arrest, with police saying the comment had implied God doesn’t exist and that this violated Indonesian laws and highlighted the fact that Aan is indeed an atheist. Apparently Aan, employed as a civil servant, also wrote: “If God exists then why do bad things happen?” And: “There should only be good things if God is merciful.”
Atheism is also illegal in Indonesia and Aan is looking at a five-year sentence for stating a personal opinion. According to one report, his sins were made all the worse because he had once listed on a job application form that he was a Muslim.
I am happy to live in a country where we still have the freedom to believe what we want. Let’s make sure it stays that way.