Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Indonesia Blasphemy Ruling

As a follow up to my earlier post on this topic, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court has recently upheld the nation’s controversial anti-blasphemy law. To quote Chris Blake from the Associated Press, “The court ruled…that the 1965 law, which allows for criminal penalties and bans on people or groups that “distort” the central tenets of six officially recognized religions, was in line with the constutition and was vital to religious harmony.” The decision was 8-1. The majority said its job was to prevent the desecration of religions. Supporters of the law said defeat would permit deviant interpretations of Islam.

Critics said the law was vague, intolerant, and provides license for government. They also say the law violated basic freedom of religion principles. Indeed the dissenting judge said that the law could lead to discrimination and was written during a period when Indonesia’s dictatorial rulers were concerned about social disorder.


2 responses to “Indonesia Blasphemy Ruling”

  1. Ran Hirschl Avatar

    Thanks, Mark. I have not read the ruling itself, but my understanding is that this case had more than freedom of religion aspect to it. Granted, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and its unrecognized status triggered it. It is designated as an apostate sect and has been persecuted in several other predominantly Muslim countries, e.g. in Pakistan. But at least from the Indonesian gov’t standpoint, the reason for upholding the law was framed as an attempt to prevent “runaway” radical Islamization and to keep the process of religious interpretation under official check. If one remembers the Bali bombings, this may not be a baseless fear. At any rate, there seems to be a cooptation of religion post-9/11 context to this ruling.

  2. Dominic J. Nardi, Jr. Avatar

    For anyone interested, I’ve posted some more discussion of the case on my blog “Rule by Hukum.” Here’s a link to the page:

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