Here is Rafiq Mahmood’s letter to the editor in response to a 3 May piece in the Guardian on Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan:
I read Kate Hodal’s piece on Alexander Aan (Indonesia’s atheists face battle for religious freedom – 3 May) with great interest having recently visited Alex with his legal team.
I was more than a little annoyed at the impression given by Ms Hodal in describing the members of the Legal Assistance Foundation in Padang as “a ragtag team of young smokers in T-shirts and sandals”. The Indonesian Legal Assistance Foundation (Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia) is a charitable organisation set up to defend the legal rights of poor people. They are dedicated and professional lawyers who work extremely hard under the most difficult of circumstances. The Padang branch are open 24 hours and are on call to help people anywhere in the entire province of West Sumatra. Very sadly, as Ms Hodal should know, smoking is widespread and endemic in Indonesia being promoted by massive uncontrolled advertising. It is not unusual for people to work in T-shirts and sandals in offices which are not air-conditioned in a tropical country and casual dress is also a policy in LBH offices so as to put their clients at ease.
Perhaps it did not come across in the article how weak legally the case against Alexander Aan is. There are three counts on the indictment, all relating to an alleged posting on the facebook page Ateis Minang (Minang – West Sumatran – Atheists) of a link to a graphic novel style website covering an incident in the life of Muhammad where he allegedly had sex with his wife’s maid. The website story itself claims to be based on accepted Hadith. [Read more…]