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Indonesian TikToker arrested for insulting Christianity

Fikri Murtadha, a Muslim man, was arrested in North Sumatra province which has the largest Christian presence in the country
Fikri Murtadha, a Muslim man was arrested on Oct. 21 for alleged blasphemy in the Indonesian province of North Sumatra

Fikri Murtadha, a Muslim man was arrested on Oct. 21 for alleged blasphemy in the Indonesian province of North Sumatra. (Photo supplied)

Published: October 23, 2023 12:24 PM GMT
Updated: October 23, 2023 02:06 PM GMT

Indonesian police have arrested a Muslim TikTok user for insulting Christianity and its adherents in a video asking them to repent and convert churches into mosques.

Fikri Murtadha, a 28-year-old Muslim man, was arrested on Oct. 21 by police in Medan, North Sumatra province which has the largest Christian population in Indonesia.

Murtadha has been arrested for "allegedly insulting religion” and causing “hatred or enmity towards individuals or groups of society based on ethnicity, religion, race, and inter-group relations," said Teuku Fathir Mustafa from the Criminal Investigation Unit of Medan City police.

Murtadha has been named a suspect and charged under the laws governing electronic information and the Criminal Code. If found guilty, he faces a sentence of six years in prison, the police officer said.

It is not yet known who reported Murtadha after a video he uploaded on ‘banbgmorteza,’ his TikTok account which has 1.2 million followers, went viral.

In the video, Murtadha made outrageous claims about Catholic and Protestant beliefs, especially regarding Jesus Christ.

"For Catholics, he was hanged, for Protestants, he was not hanged," he said calling on those who worship Jesus Christ to “go home and repent” and also “turn your churches into mosques.”

After facing criticism from viewers, Murtadha made another video to apologize, clarifying that it was “just a joke” that went “excessive.”

He also admitted to having violated the law and societal norms.

"I am sorry. I have no intention of attacking either side [Catholics or Protestants]. I also have many non-Muslim friends. Many of my friends will be disappointed and I accept that I was wrong," he said.

North Sumatra has the largest Christian population - Protestants forming 26.8 percent and Catholics 4.3 percent of its 15.4 million people - among the provinces in Indonesia, 

Azas Tigor Nainggolan, a lawyer and coordinator of the Indonesian Bishops' Advocacy and Human Rights Forum, refused to comment on the issue.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos from the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace which focuses on religious freedom issues, criticized the arrest.

“It is time for the police to prioritize restorative justice in cases of religious blasphemy,” he told UCA News.

The man has apologized openly to the public and assured that he will not repeat the same mistake, Naipospos said.

“Society too must adopt a moderate and relaxed approach. God does not need to be defended and religious beliefs cannot be shaken by some negative comments," he added.

Andreas Harsono, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said there can be no end to people speaking against religions, but that does not justify blasphemy laws.

Indonesia has registered at least 187 cases of blasphemy between 1965 and 2022, according to the Setara Institute.

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