In an ironic turn of events, the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) who led the charge against the Christian governor of Jakarta for blasphemy is now facing the same charge after making an offensive comment regarding Jesus Christ.
According to Asia News, on Christmas Day, Rizieq Shihab was videotaped as saying, "If God had a son, then who was the midwife?" while explaining why Muslims should not allow others to wish them a Merry Christmas.
When the Indonesian Catholic Students Association (PMKRI) saw footage of the speech, it decided to take him to court, accusing him and two others of blasphemy under section A of Article 156 of the Constitution. If convicted, the Muslim leader faces five years in prison.
PMKRI president Angelius Wake Kako said the religious feelings of Christians "have been hurt and humiliated" and said every Indonesian "should respect diversity and not interfere in the private affairs of other religions. Only Christians know the Christian faith. It is better for all those who do not have that knowledge to be silent."
The Jakarta Globe notes that several watchdog organizations and experts have called on the National Police to fast track their investigations against Rizieq, and Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen Mochamad Iriawan has promised that the police will process the lawsuit.
In turn, the Islamic leader said the accusations of blasphemy are "misguided" and that the prosecution's matter is "not sufficient for a police report". Rizieq's organization has also vowed to report the people who filed the lawsuit against him for defamation or slander.
Asia News notes that Rizieq and his organization are behind several mass demonstrations that have drawn hundreds of thousands of Muslims to Jakarta to protest the capital's Christian governor, Basuki Purnama Tjahaja, known as Ahok, and demand his resignation.
Ahok, who is is ethnic Chinese and the first Christian in nearly 50 years to govern Indonesia's capital, is charged with violating blasphemy laws during a speech to fishermen in September.
In that address, Ahok reportedly cited a verse from the Quran that warns Muslims against taking Christians and Jews as allies. At the time, he quipped that due to Indonesia's transition to democracy in 1999, it was perfectly acceptable for Muslim voters to choose a Christian in the election for governor in February.
Ahok has denied the charges, and said his comments were aimed at politicians "incorrectly" using the Koranic verse against him, as reported by The Gospel Herald, and insisted his alleged remarks were not directed at the verse itself.
According to The Guardian, an Indonesian court on Tuesday rejected the defense request to throw out the case because of too many irregularities. The next court hearing is scheduled for 3 January and will be moved to an auditorium in the agriculture ministry in the south of the city for security reasons, authorities said.
Blasphemy convictions in Indonesia nearly always result in conviction. The law has been criticized by Amnesty International for hurting freedom of expression and for targeting religious minorities.