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Indonesia: no porn, no trash-talking Islam

What two recent court rulings say about life in the world's most-populous Muslim nation.

Other Islamic sects have also faced persecution under the law. Uli Sihombing, a human rights lawyer that helped file the constitutional review, estimates that hundreds of people have been jailed, including a number of journalists.

“This is a major setback for Indonesian democracy,” Sihombing said, adding that under Indonesian law, the decision can’t be appealed. “Indonesians are not allowed to interpret their own religions.”

The court’s chief justice, Mohammad Mahfud, argued in the majority opinion that the law is needed to prevent religious conflict — a sentiment shared by the majority of parliament as well.

“This law helps maintain the harmony between religions,” said Abdul Kadir Karding, chairman for parliament’s commission on religious affairs. “People should not have the freedom to desecrate other religions.”

Taylor said both constitutional court decisions were politically motivated, pointing to what he says is a disconnect between what the Indonesian government says publically, both domestically and internationally, and what it does in reality.

Indonesia has been embraced by the United States and other Western democracies as a successful example of a moderate, Muslim-majority democracy. But as Indonesia’s growing economy propels it onto the world stage, human rights groups are increasingly concerned that past government abuses and still unresolved human rights issues like religious freedom are being cast aside.

“There needs to be an absence of money politics and there needs to be an independent judiciary. These things do not exist in Indonesia right now,” Taylor said. “In order for Indonesia to be active on the world stage it will be necessary to mobilize the strengths of its society instead of just articulating ideas that sound good but aren’t backed up by reality.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/indonesia/100429/indonesia-islam-porn-blasphemy