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Discourse: Blasphemy law ‘has not prevented conflict’
Todung Mulya Lubis
The Constitutional Court (MK) ruled Monday to uphold the 45-year-old Blasphemy law after a judicial review request was filed last October by human rights groups and backers of pluralism who said the law violated religious freedom. The Jakarta Post talks to renowned lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, who said the Court tends to lean “to the right” in certain issues.
Question: What is your comment on the Constitutional Court’s ruling which rejected the judicial review request on the Blasphemy Law?
Answer: I regret the decision because it disregards the diversity and plurality of our nation. We have to respect the court’s authority to conduct a judicial review, but this decision has distorted freedom of worship which is acknowledged as a basic human right.
The law allows ample room for misuse. The court said this law is needed to prevent horizontal and vertical conflicts. Conflicts occur when there are coercive actions (to prohibit someone or a group) from worshipping according to their religion and belief.
If there was no intimdiation against the Ahmadiyah congregation, for instance, they would be free to worship. So the law has been disturbing this and has not prevented conflict.
Coercion which disregards diversity and people’s religious rights cause conflicts. The logic of the court is misleading when it says that the law prevents conflicts.
On the contrary, conflicts happen when there repressive actions by groups which believe that only the state-sanctioned religions (the “standard” forms of Islam, Christianity, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism) are legal while the others have to be eradicated. Such actions are a source of conflict.
Doesn’t the Blasphemy Law contradict the 2008 Law Prohibiting Racial and Ethnic Discrimination which says nobody can be discriminated against due to his or her religion and belief?
It’s against that law. It’s also against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. So the Blasphemy Law has fundamentally violated international and national laws.
The Constitutional Court’s ideology tends to the right. Many have expressed concerns about this. When the court faces issues of religion and freedom of speech and expression, it becomes conservative and fundamentalist.
This disregards human rights, pluralism and reform efforts. So we must face the fact that the court is dominated by conservatives and fundamentalists.
We are forced to acknowledged formal religions while we actually have freedom of choice.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling is final but it doesn’t mean we can tolerate its excessive implementation.
However, we don’t know yet how far the implementation will go. But this is obviously a setback.
What are the possible implications of the court’s ruling?
Groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) will be happy with this.
When new religious groups or thoughts emerge, they can be considered as defaming formal (forms of) religions. FPI and HTI will have legal justification for their coercive actions violating human rights. They act as if they are the private religious police.
What are the further plans of human rights groups to anticipate the impact of the ruling?
We will arrange a meeting to look at the Constitutional Court’s ruling because it potentially could cause divisions. We are going to try to limit its divisive impacts while continuing to promote diversity and pluralism. (rdf)