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Muslims support blasphemy case against fellow Muslim

JAKARTA (UCAN): Muslim human rights advocates in Jakarta, Indonesia, have joined growing calls to have hardline Muslim cleric, Rizieq Syihab, charged with blasphemy for insulting Christianity.

Rizieq is the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front and is being accused of mocking Christians during a sermon on Christmas Day in which he is reported to have said, “If God gave birth, then who would be the midwife?”

Angry Catholic students filed a blasphemy complaint on the following day. The suit has won the support of more than 140 lawyers and comes amidst a case against the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki (Ahok) Purnama, who is currently on trial for blasphemy.

At a meeting on January 9 at the Catholic student’s headquarters in Jakarta, Muslim members of the Interfaith Student Forum and Student Peace Institute declared they would back the Catholic students  in their blasphemy accusation against Syihab.

They said his comments not only hurt Christians, but also caused division among Muslims.

“As Muslims we deeply regret his comment,” Slamet Abidin, from the Interfaith Student Forum, said. “He should not have messed with the religious beliefs of others.”

Slamet added, “We are determined to help push this through the legal process.”

He added that Islam teaches tolerance and values. But Rizieq’s behaviour has damaged the reputation of Islam as a tolerant religion.

Doddy Abdallah, from the Student Peace Institute, added that ignoring Syihab’s behavior would only serve to foster extremism.

“Radicalism is like a virus and if not eradicated it will undermine religious life in Indonesia,” he pointed out.

The West Java chapter of the Indonesian Islamic Students Movement, the youth wing of the Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organisation in Indonesia, has also condemned Syihab’s comments, declaring them “against the Indonesian Constitution and state ideology.”

Angelo Wake Kako, the chairperson of the Indonesian Catholic Students Association, said police questioned Syihab after the association filed the case against him in December.

“While we wait for further developments, we will continue to dialogue with many parties,” he said.

Syihab was accused of violating Article 156 section (a) of the Criminal Code on blasphemy, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.

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