Catholic students press for radical cleric's prosecution

Association wants Islamic firebrand to get same blasphemy treatment as jailed Christian politician
Catholic students press for radical cleric's prosecution

Muhammad Rizieq Syihab, head of the radical group Islamic Defenders Front, has been reported to police by the Catholic Students Association for blasphemy. (ucanews.com photo)

 

The Indonesian Catholic Students Association has called on police to process their blasphemy complaint against prominent Islamic cleric Muhammad Rizieq Syihab after Christian governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was jailed for the same crime.  

Angelo Wake Kako, the student's chairman, said the government must ensure that the law is equally implemented.

"Ahok has been imprisoned so Rizieq Syihab's case should also be processed," Kako said.

In December 2016, they reported Syihab, head of the radical group, Islamic Defenders Front, for mocking Christianity. "If God gave birth then who would be the midwife?" the cleric said in a sermon to the amusement of the audience.

Kako said lack of progress in the case was due to discrimination against Christians in the Muslim-majority country. "Blasphemy laws cannot be only applied to minority groups," he said.

Saor Siagian, a lawyer for the students, said, "Ahok was named as a suspect only three days after being reported while it has been five months since Syihab's case was registered and there have been no developments."

Argo Yuwono, Jakarta police spokesperson, said they are still probing the case and they would follow up on all reports.

"[Syihab's case] is still under investigation and we have already questioned some people," Yuwono said.

 

Support for the case

Theofilus Bella, former chairman of the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum, supported the students. "Syihab is well-known for hate speech," he said.

"The Catholic students' effort to report him is a bold step. I think there are many other groups who want to do the same but are afraid. I certainly hope the police will take firm steps," he said.

Meanwhile, Father Yohanes Kristoforus Tara from the Franciscan's Commission of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation said the complaint against Syihab was not an attempt to retaliate after Ahok was imprisoned.

"This is about the commitment of the state to treat everyone equally before the law," he said.

Muslims also supported the case. In a joint statement, the Movement of Indonesian Islamic Students said they "fully support" the Catholic students and "condemned Syihab's statement."

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Syihab, is well-known for making comments that inflame minority groups, often calling them infidels. He was also one of the leaders of the anti-Ahok campaign during the Jakarta elections. On April 19, Ahok was defeated in the polls by his Muslim rival, Anies Rashid Baswedan.

Syihab is also embroiled in another case for insulting Indonesia's secular Pancasila (five principles) ideology. He allegedly said, "in [former president] Sukarno's Pancasila, God is placed in the ass whereas, according to the Jakarta Charter, God is in the head."

The Jakarta Charter was a proposed preamble to the 1945 Constitution that supported Islamic Shariah law. 

He is also accused of violating anti-pornography laws when he used the chat application, WhatsApp to send lewd messages to a woman. He ignored a court summons last week as he was in Saudi Arabia.

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