Indonesian comic gets 7 months jail for blasphemous joke about the name of prophet Muhammad

By South China Morning Post | Created at 2024-06-11 12:48:45 | Updated at 2024-06-17 01:14:00 5 days ago
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Indonesian comic gets 7 months jail for blasphemous joke about the name of prophet Muhammad

An Indonesian court has sentenced a comedian to seven months in prison for a joke he made about the name “Muhammad”, court documents showed, intensifying concerns over blasphemy laws in one of the world’s most populous Muslim nations.

Aulia Rakhman was found guilty of violating blasphemy laws after joking about the name of the Islamic prophet Muhammad during a performance in the Sumatran city of Lampung in December.

A video of his performance, widely shared on social media, showed him quipping that the holiness of the name was no longer valid given that so many people in prison were named Muhammad.

Many Indonesians are named Muhammad, after the prophet.

Human rights and free speech advocates have expressed concern over the interpretation of the blasphemy law, which has mostly been used against those deemed to have insulted Islam.

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said the blasphemy article in the law has caused many “innocent people” to be jailed.

“We urge this article to be abolished,” he said.

Andreas Harsono, the Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the case showed “once again, the toxic nature of the blasphemy law in Indonesia.”

The stand-up comedy show was part of a campaign event for Indonesian presidential candidate, Anies Baswedan, who lost the elections this February. Baswedan did not attend the show.

The law forbids anyone from making statements at odds with one of Indonesia’s six official religions or trying to prevent someone from adhering to one of those religions.

Aulia was found guilty last week, but the verdict only came to light on Tuesday.

“The defendant admitted and regretted his actions, behaved politely at the trial, and the defendant has never been convicted,” Ricky said.

“The aggravating factor was the defendant’s actions have disturbed society.”

The comedian’s jailing is the latest in a string of blasphemy cases in the country.

The law has in the past ensnared the former popular Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2017 for blasphemy.

In September last year, an Indonesian court also sentenced a woman to two years in prison after she posted a video on TikTok, in which she recited a Muslim prayer before eating pork.

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