Shiite cleric jailed for blasphemy in Indonesia

AFP, Thursday 12 Jul 2012

A Shiite cleric faces a two-year imprisonment sentence by an Indonesian court for blasphemy; he said that Koran was not an authentic text and Muslims should pray only three times a day

An Indonesian court sentenced a Shiite cleric Thursday to two years in prison for blasphemy, saying his teachings deviated from mainstream Islam and had caused "public anxiety".

Tajul Muluk was arrested in April by police on the island of Madura off eastern Java amid anti-Shiite attacks that rights groups say were led by Sunni Muslims.

"Based on witness accounts and evidence presented, the defendant has been proven legally and convincingly guilty of blasphemy causing public anxiety," chief judge Purnomo Amin Tjahjo told the Sampang district court.

During his teachings, Muluk said the Koran was not an authentic text, that Muslims should pray only three times a day, and that the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca was not obligatory, witnesses had told the court.

Mainstream Islam teaches that the hajj is one of five pillars of Islam and that Muslims should pray five times a day.

The judge said that Muluk had propagated Shiite teachings in his village of Nangkernang, where a nearby branch of the country's top Islamic clerical council dubbed the denomination "deviant" from mainstream Islam.

Muluk said that he would file an appeal against the ruling.

"I feel that my dignity has been crushed. They accused me of being an infidel. I will file an appeal for the sake of my pride," he told the court.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised the court ruling and urged the Indonesian government to immediately release Muluk and repeal the country's blasphemy laws.

The international rights watchdog said that Sunni militants had attacked Muluk's village, burning houses, including Muluk's home, as well as an Islamic school, and forcing 500 Shiite followers to flee their homes.

Indonesia guarantees freedom of religion through its constitution but has in recent years given light sentences to perpetrators of attacks on Christians and those from the Ahmadi Islamic minority, some of which have been fatal.

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