The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Sat, 09/26/2009 12:06 PM  |  National

The National Alliance for the Freedom of Religion and Faith (AKKBB) has planned to file a request with the Constitutional Court to review the 1965 blasphemy law which they say is discriminatory and against the amended 1945 Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion in the country.

The alliance comprising of, among others, the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), the Wahid Institute and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) said the law had raised a public outcry and triggered sectarian conflicts as people were required to accept only the six official religions – Islam, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Kong Hu Chu – and those with different faiths were branded heretics.

“We are in the process of completing the necessary documents to be given to the Constitutional Court,” AKKBB coordinator Anick Hamim Tohari said here last week.

The 1965 law on the prevention of religion abuse and blasphemy stipulates that no one is allowed make interpretations deviating from the official religions’ teachings. Anick, executive director of ICRP too, said the alliance had formed a small team who was still preparing the judicial review proposal and supporting documentation.

Febi Yonesta of the LBH Jakarta said the official request for the judicial review would be filed as soon as the documents were complete.

Ahmadiyah and Lia Eden were two Muslim communities that have been rejected because their teaching and doctrine were different to what has been designated official Islamic teaching and doctrine. Many mosques belonging to the two communities have been burned down and their followers displaced from their villages in the West Java regencies of Bogor, Sukabumi and Kuningan, and Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara.

Ahmadiyah is a religious sect whose teachings are claimed to be heretical by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and who have been attacked by various Muslim groups. Last year, the government made the decision that Ahmadiyah members were allowed to perform their religious activities but banned them from proselytizing new believers. The decision was made based on the law on religious blasphemy.

Lia Eden is a sect leader who has been sentenced to prison for religious blasphemy. “The law is the foundation of article 156 of the Criminal Code Law which criminalizes many religious minorities. Lia Eden has been charged under this article.

“Our constitution guarantees religious freedom. All religious groups deserve equal treatment. Therefore, this law which gives the government the power to intervene in religious matters must be annulled,” Anick said, referring to the 2008 joint ministerial decree barring Ahmadiyah from disseminating its teaching.

Febi said the Alliance had been planning to ask for the judicial review since 2005. “However, we had many considerations to take into account which postponed the plan.” He said in 2005, the situation was very tense and many groups were showing great resentment against religious sects. “We do not want to raise controversies and conflicts. We want the Constitutional Court to be able to decide on the review with a clear conscience. We do not want any political pressure to affect the legal process,” he said.

He said in the past, a believer of an unofficial religion must declare themselves a believer of one of the official religions in the religion section of his or her identity card. “However, the 2006 administration law allows them not to fill in the religion column,” Febi said.

“We hope if the 1965 law is annulled, all laws and regulations which take reference from this law will be applied without discriminating against any religious group,” said Feby.

Anick said the alliance’s top priority was to annul the terminology of official religions.

“Other laws and regulations, such as the marriage law, the population administration law, the joint ministerial decree which regulates houses of worship building permits also took the official religions from this law,” he said, adding that, to be consistent with the decree, the state did not recognize marriages between believers of different faiths. (mrs)

Source: The Jakarta Post, NU online, religiouswatch