Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.
An Indonesian man could be hit with a five-year jail term after posting “God does not exist” on an atheist group’s Facebook Page.
The civil servant, described as a 31-year-old named Alexander, told the Jakarta Globe that an angry mob had accosted him and beat him up on Wednesday, after reaching his office at the Dharmasraya Development Planning Board.
The man moderates a Facebook Page for the Minang Atheists, and says that in addition to his impromptu punishment at the hands of a baying mob, he’s also facing dismissal from his job and a prison sentence under strict blasphemy laws. Furthermore, Dharmasraya Police Chief Chairul Aziz said Alexander is currently in “protective custody”, adding that Alexander was afraid of physical assault.
Alexander said he was an “observant Muslim” until 2008, but then came to the conclusion that there could not be a god because of all the disasters around the world, leading him to post “God does not exist” on the Facebook page.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, however it does recognize the right to practice five other religions aside from Islam. Atheism, however, is a violation of Indonesian law under the founding principles of the country, and the maximum term for blasphemy is five years.
The Dharmasraya Police Chief told the Jakarta Globe that the West Sumatra Coordinating Agency to Supervise Religion and Beliefs, alongside the Ministry of Religious Affairs, are set to recommend whether Alexander should be prosecuted. “If they consider what he did was blasphemy, we will charge him,” he said. Chairul added that the issue was that Alexander had used the Koran to highlight his atheist views, “so it meets the criteria of tainting religion, in this case Islam.”
A Muslim leader in West Sumatra also weighed in, adding that if Alexander doesn’t repent and join one of Indonesia’s six officially recognized religions, then he should be fired.
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