Housewife jailed for blasphemy in Indonesia

indo-blasphemyJAKARTA: An Indonesian housewife has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for insulting Islam, an official said Tuesday, the latest conviction under the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

Siti Aisyah, 47, was found guilty on Monday evening of spreading Islamic teachings that differed from local ulemas — religious leaders — and calling them liars for disagreeing with her.

Her conviction comes at a time of rising concerns about religious intolerance in a country traditionally regarded as a bastion of tolerant Islam.

“What she has committed was an insult for our religion, she is dangerous for a religious city like Mataram,” Didiek Jatmiko, presiding judge at Mataram district court in West Nusa Tenggara Province, told AFP.

Aisyah was named a blasphemy suspect in February for promoting an unorthodox version of a Muslim prayer on a website she ran, and in flyers she distributed around Mataram.

She also urged readers of her website not to follow hadiths — words and practices of the Prophet Mohammed — Jatmiko said.

“We sentenced her to two and a half years in prison because she did not regret her crime at all, she is adamant that her belief is the ultimate truth,” Jatmiko said.

Aisyah rejected assistance from a lawyer and did not defend herself from the charges. She told the court she would not appeal the decision.

Rights groups have long campaigned against Indonesia’s archaic blasphemy laws, which they say have been used to persecute religious and ethnic minorities.

Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is Christian, was jailed for two years on blasphemy charges in May.

He came under fire from hardline Islamic groups after he claimed his political opponents had been manipulating voters by using a verse from the Koran to urge Muslims not to vote for a non-Muslim leader.

The verdict fuelled fears of Indonesia’s moderate brand of Islam coming under threat from increasingly influential radicals.