Blasphemy Trial Tests Pluralism in Mostly Muslim Indonesia

Blasphemy Trial Tests Pluralism in Mostly Muslim Indonesia, by Sara Schonhardt.

The Christian chief of one of the world’s largest mostly Muslim cities delivered an emotional defense at the start of his blasphemy trial Tuesday, a politically charged case that has become a test of pluralism in this young democracy.

Hundreds of people had gathered outside the courthouse in central Jakarta to demand that Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama be jailed even before the verdict, carrying on from a series of massive street protests. They were countered by dozens of supporters of the governor — also the most prominent politician in Indonesia from the ethnic Chinese minority.

The small courtroom was filled to its capacity, about 80 people. In an unusual public display for Mr. Purnama, a blunt-talker often described as brash, he shed tears while telling the panel of five judges how his Muslim godparents had taught him Islamic values while he was growing up, and how insulting Islam would be tantamount to showing them disrespect.

Bowing down before Islam. Guess you’d have to, in Indonesia.

If convicted, Mr. Purnama, 50 years old, faces up to five years in prison.

He has previously apologized for the remarks. But excerpts from his speech, disseminated widely via social media, sparked widespread anger, stoked by hard-line Islamist groups long opposed to having a non-Muslim hold an elected office with authority over Muslims. …

Fundamentalist Muslims in Indonesia are becoming more influential:

Nearly 90% of Indonesians are Muslim, but the country recognizes six religions and operates under a secular political system. For years hard-line groups have been challenging that foundation, making inroads culturally but with little political success.

However, once-fringe groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front have become increasingly organized and adept at using social media to spread their conservative message directly, sidelining mainstream Islamic organizations. …

A guilty verdict would “put a stop to pluralism because it doesn’t give space for minorities to be a part of the political fabric,” said Tobias Basuki, an analyst at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies. …

All but one of the more than 100 blasphemy prosecutions in Indonesia between 2005 and 2014 ended in conviction, according to Amnesty International.

See The Ugly Truth about Muslim Grievances, which pointed out that Muslim grievances are real but are supremacist in nature:

Muslims … get angry seeing infidels on an equal footing with Muslims. And they get murderous seeing infidels actually lording over Muslims.