A human rights group on Tuesday criticized President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s plan to propose an international protocol against religious defamation at a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York on Tuesday.
“We seriously condemn the president’s blasphemy resolution,” M. Choirul Anam, deputy director of the Human Rights Working Group, said at a press conference on Tuesday in Jakarta. “This shows a setback in Indonesian diplomacy.”
Yudhoyono said at a press conference over the weekend that he would propose the international protocol at the UN’s 67th General Assembly, in the interest of maintaining world peace and preventing conflict.
“Indonesia has a moral obligation to convey opinions and also to think of an international protocol on how we can prevent actions or initiatives that could be categorized as religious blasphemy, from one religion to another,” Yudhoyono said.
Yudhoyono’s announcement came in the wake of a recently released anti-Islam film that has incited protests, some violent, across the globe.
Choirul said regardless, Yudhoyono’s proposal amounted to retrograde diplomacy and tainted the image of Indonesia.
“[An anti-] blasphemy resolution threatens minority groups,” Choirul said. “Proposing a blasphemy [protocol] means we’re asking other countries to do bad things. This threatens world peace.”
HRWG stated that the government should have learned from its implementation of the nation’s 1965 Blasphemy Law, which the rights group said has been used to tolerate or justify violence in the name of religion.
“In the Tajul Muluk case that used the Blasphemy Law, the punishment was heavier, from an [initial] two [years in prison] into four years,” Choirul said, referring a decision by the East Java high court to extend the sentence first handed down by a district court. “With this resolution, it means calling for the world to get worse.”
Tajul is a Shiite leader in Sampang, East Java, who was convicted by the district court there of religious defamation on July 12. Prosecutors found him guilty of spreading teachings that contradicted mainstream Islam and had caused “public anxiety.”
Tajul’s followers in Sampang have been attacked multiple times by Sunni Muslims for their adherence to the cleric’s teachings. Two Shiite followers were killed and several others were injured in one mob attack in late August.