In Indonesia, Murders by a ‘Lynch Mob’ Go Lightly Punished
On Friday, Indonesia’s minister of religious affairs, Suryadharma Ali, told TIME that he was “not in a position to judge the fairness of a court result,” but he believed the country’s judges were both willing and able to enforce the law. He also defended a decree, issued in 2008, that prohibits members of Ahmadiyah from practicing their faith in public or spreading their beliefs. Ahmadis believe their sect’s founder, a 19th century Indian named Mizra Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet. Many Muslims, including the minister, consider this claim heretical. He said that although he supports freedom of religion, Ahmadis ought not use that freedom to “completely modify” Islam’s core beliefs.
Critics counter that the government’s stance, and the recent trial, privilege religious doctrine over basic rights, threatening the country’s proud tradition of pluralism. Human Rights Watch called it “a sad day” for Indonesian justice. The United States issued a statement saying it was disappointed by “the disproportionately light sentences.” It also called on Indonesia to “defend its tradition of tolerance for all religions.” The chairman of one of the country’s largest Muslim organizations, Muhammadiyah, also spoke out. “The punishment is too soft,” Din Syamsuddin told the Jakarta Post. “That hurts me.” No doubt it hurts the country, too.