The outgoing governor of the Jakarta in Indonesia, who is a double minority in that he is both Christian and ethnic Chinese in a country that has the largest Muslim population in the world and is 85% Muslim, was sentenced to two-years imprisonment for blasphemy. His crime? Quoting a verse from the Koran which he said that opponents were using to mislead people that Muslims should not vote for a non-Muslim.
The sentence was harsher than that requested by prosecutors, which was a one-year suspended sentence.
The governor was “found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment”, the judge told the court.
The verdict was met with strong protest. Hard-line Islamic groups who called for the maximum penalty of five years said it was too lenient, but Mr Purnama’s supporters said it was too harsh and that he should be acquitted.
Outside the court supporters of Governor Ahok broke down in tears when they heard the verdict. Some hugged each other.
Andi, a devoted Muslim, said she felt heartbroken. “He was such a good man and great leader… He didn’t care what religion people were. Now he has been framed,” she said.
Many here believe the case against him is politically motivated. But a short distance away, the atmosphere among the governor’s critics – a coalition of Islamic groups – was one of anger.
“The sentence is too light, he should have got the maximum of five years, or better still be hung,” said Solihin.
Religious apologists often say that religious people who act badly are not ‘true’ representatives of their religion, the famous ‘no true Scotsman’ excuse. Ignore those religious people in countries where they are a minority and who talk about tolerance and diversity. Religions are a menace but only reveal their true intolerant colors when they are in the majority.