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Groups pan president's blasphemy plan
Call Yudhoyono's international initiative hypocritical and oppressive
- Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
- September 26, 2012
â€śThis instrument, a product of international concensus, shall serve as a point of reference that the world community must comply with,â€ť Yudhoyono told world leaders in New York.
Ali Akbar Tanjung of the Human Rights Working Group said such a protocol would be ineffective in Indonesia and only give legal protections for criminal acts of religious violence.
â€śThe protocol will not reduce religious-based conflicts. Instead, it will legalize such conflicts â€¦ particularly against religious minority groups,â€ť he told ucanews.com.
Tanjung added that the presidentâ€™s proposal ignored the failure of the countryâ€™s existing legislation â€“ the 1965 Blasphemy Law â€“ to promote peace and instead has sanctioned further religious violence.
â€śThe law has become [a way to legitimize] extremist groups to commit violent acts particularly against minority groups such as the Ahmadiyah and Shia regarded by mainstream Muslims as deviant.â€ť
New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned the proposal on the eve of Yudhoyonoâ€™s speech, calling it hypocritical.
â€śThere is a high level of hypocrisy by saying that [Yudhoyono] is going to be the champion of religious moderation and religious tolerance at the international level, while he has basically presided over a significant decline in religious tolerance in Indonesia,â€ť said Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRWâ€™s Asia division.
Tanjung said the president should instead have called for the international community to strengthen the UN Human Rights Councilâ€™s 2008 resolution on combating defamation of religions instead of tabling a new protocol.
Ifdhal Kasim of the National Commission on Human Rights agreed.
â€śHow can we expect the international community to accept such a proposal while a similar blasphemy law has been used to condone violence against minority Muslim groups,â€ť he was quoted as saying in a report by the Jakarta Post.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama told the General Assembly that the issue of free speech was vital to preserving liberty, and that repression was not an effective response to hate speech.
â€śGiven the power of faith in our lives, and the passions that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech.â€ť
He added: â€śThere are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.â€ť