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Indonesia's Blasphemy Law Should Not Be Repealed: PKS

Jakarta. Despite the mounting pressure locally and internationally for Indonesia to review Article 156a of the Criminal Code on blasphemy, the Justice and Prosperity Party, or PKS, said that the law should not be repealed.

"Constitutionally and by law, the blasphemy law [embodied in Article 156a of the Criminal Code] is really important in respecting and honoring all religions that are officially acknowledged by the government," Jazuli Juwaini, PKS chairman said on Thursday (18/05).

Calls for Indonesia to abolish the controversial article were at the forefront after former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.

The United Nations Human Rights Council also recommended that the Indonesian government revise its laws.

The Constitutional Court has turned down previous requests to abolish the law. It was challenged after a judicial review was brought to the court in 2010 and 2013, but the court decided that the law should remain on the basis that it is needed to preserve harmony, religious tolerance and limit acts that could potentially disrupt public order.

The Constitutional Court also said that many other nations have criminalized blasphemy.

In fact, anti-blasphemy laws are not unique to Indonesia. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2014, about a quarter of the world’s countries and territories — or 26 percent— have laws against blasphemy.

Jazuli who is also a member of the House of Representatives Commission I — which oversees defense, information, foreign and political affairs — agreed with the Constitutional Court's decisions, saying that the law is needed to maintain harmony in the country.

He cited Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution that says that all citizens are guaranteed the freedom to worship, each according to his or her own religion or belief.

"It should not be abolished, we want to maintain harmony, because if the article isn't there, people can just insult [...] religion. This will trigger disharmony that could create national instability," he said.

PKS was one of the supporters of the blasphemy trial against Ahok.

Source: The Jakarta Globe, Yustinus Paat, May 18, 2017

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