U.S. Muslim reformer blasts Indonesia for jailing Christian governor on trumped-up blasphemy charges

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Indonesia earlier this week threw a Christian outgoing governor in the slammer for “blasphemy.”

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok,  was convicted earlier this week of the “crime” of saying the Koran allows non-Muslims to rule over Muslims.

The comment was followed by months of protests by radicals — some demonstrations saw hundreds of thousands of people — calling for Ahok to be punished.

Experts said Ahok committed no crime, and that his conviction amounted to the government caving to the demands of radical Islamist riff-raff.

Many Indonesians are wondering whether this is just the beginning, and whether radical Islamists will grow even more powerful, at a time when radical Islamist ideology is spreading throughout Southeast Asia. 

Across the ocean in the United States, moderate Muslims are concerned.

Zuhdi Jasser, an American Mulism reformist and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told Borderless News Online that Indonesia is plagued by the worsening threat of radical Islam.

“Indonesia has long been one of the most hopeful Muslim majority nations and democracies for planting the seeds of liberal reforms against global Islamism…(But)like most Muslim populations it is besieged by the growing threat of popular Islamist movements,” said Jasser, who is also the co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement. He added that countries awash in oil money, like Saudi Arabia, have also played a role by financing such movements.

“We are beyond disappointed if not despondent at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) to see the ruling party and judiciary cave in to the Islamists on so many fronts in Indonesia,” he said, noting free speech and blasphemy laws are two main issues under which the courts buckled to Islamist pressure.

Ahok’s conviction and imprisonment is a “harbinger of growing Islamism in Indonesia,” he said, adding that if it is not countered, than it “may be a tipping point for a near future slide towards Islamism.”

Indeed, contrary to almost every one of the 56 nations of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Indonesia has a long tradition of separation of mosque and state since its independence. The nation has long held back the threat hard line Islamism through movements of spiritual Islam and large, popular groups like the Nahdlatul Ulama, Jasser noted, citing the moderate Muslim group with 40 million members nationwide.

It is a “deeply concerning sign” that the Islamists are beginning to “gather a critical mass” in the Indonesian political landscape.

One silver lining, however, is that Ahok received over 40 percent of the vote in the recent elections, which took place as his trial was closing.

Perhaps much like Egypt, Syria, and Turkey, the growth of Islamists will “reawaken the patriotic forces for liberty in Indonesia,” he said, “to organize civil society…against the growing threat of Islamism.”

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