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Militant groups ready to defend controversial law
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) said they would defend the controversial blasphemy law, calling the move to scrap the 45-year-old law as an attempt to “liberalize” and destroy Islam.
The two radical groups have met with Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali to lend their support to the government to fight against the plan of human rights groups to have the law reviewed by the Constitutional Court.
The review is backed by promoters of pluralism, including recipient of the Magsasay Award and Muhammadiyah patron Ahmad Syafii Maarif and the late Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, widely respected in the Nahdlatul Ulama.
FPI lawyer Munarman said the judicial review request had no legal standing because the NGOs are not religious organizations.
The individuals joining the petition were not those whose Constitutional rights had been denied, and therefore had no right to file a judicial review, he said on the group’s website.
HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto called on Muslims to support the government to defend Islam from any assaults, including the judicial review of the blasphemy law.
The group had appointed the Muslim Lawyers Team, or TPM, as its representative in the hearing at the Constitutional Court, scheduled to commence on Thursday.
They had filed a request at the court to be given a say in the hearing. “The MK has not responded to our request yet,” Mahendradatta of TPM told The Jakarta Post.
The TPM, which also represent a group called the Peace Alliance Against Blasphemy of Islam (ADA API), accused the petitioners of using the slogan of freedom of religion as a cover to discredit religions.
“They are actually seeking ‘freedom to insult religions’,” Mahendradatta said.
He said Hizbut Tahrir members and other Muslim groups will attend the hearings to show their support for the government.
“Thousands of Muslims are apprehensive about the review. They may be curious and want to attend the hearings,” claimed Mahendradtta, who was also a defense lawyer for the Bali bombers.
Uli Parulian Sihombing, a lawyer for the review petitioners, deplored the meeting between the religious minister and the militant groups. “A minister should not conduct such a meeting. The worst thing is, we are also informed that the meeting used state funds,” he told the Post.
Suryadharma Ali said his ministry and the Law and Human Rights Ministry have made preparations to counter the arguments of the rights activists.
He blasted the judicial review request as “irrational”, saying that it would only hurt the existing six officially recognized religions — Islam, Catholicism, Protestanism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism — and create disharmony.
The minister said freedom of religion as guaranteed in the Constitution should be practiced in accordance with the existing regulations, which he said were made to protect other people’s rights to freedom of religion.
The minister took the view that the emergence of religious sects was a form of blasphemy against existing religions.
The government, he said as quoted by Antara, had the responsibility to do whatever it could do to maintain religious harmony.