Recently, a petition has been circulating in support of Alexander Aan, an atheist who is currently on trial in Indonesia for having spoken out in favor of atheism and against Islam. A Facebook page has also cropped up. Maryam Namazie has been covering the case from the beginning and has posted an interview with Aan. Additionally, Atheist Alliance International is collecting donations for his legal fund.
As I’ve pointed out before, Westerners who lack a Muslim background don’t face as much in the way of credible threats from Islamic violence as those who live in Muslim-dominated countries and/or have their origins somehow tangled up in Islam. Nowhere is this more evident than in case of both Indonesia, Aan’s country, and Malaysia, its only Muslim majority neighbor.
Both of these Southeast Asian countries, because they do not require tourists to dress or act according to Islamic standards, have gained a reputation for being “progressive” Muslim countries. Malaysia’s own tourism site promotes the idea that Malaysian Muslims live in harmony with their non-Muslim neighbors. Travel blogs detail how lovely and tolerant Indonesia seems to tourists.
Sadly, this Western tourists’ version of the countries doesn’t exist for those who actually live there. Malaysia has laws against apostasy and apostates can face criminal charges and punitive measures for renouncing Islam. Even non-Malaysian people with Muslim backgrounds are not safe there. Indonesia is not much different, both in terms of mob violence and, as is also shown by Aan’s case, Sharia.
Alexander Aan is one person, but his case highlights exactly what is wrong with the Muslim world’s treatment of its own citizens. Supporting him will mean more than helping a man who has committed no real crime — it will show a lack of tolerance for religiously-based, unjust laws.