Alexander Aan, Under Attack for Blasphemy, Suddenly Converts to Islam

We haven’t heard much from Alexander Aan since he “blasphemed” on a Facebook group for the Minang Atheists and stated that God didn’t exist. The authorities in Indonesia took him into custody and he faces up to five years in prison for speaking the truth.

Several groups have tried to step up in his defense, to no avail…

The newly-formed Malaysian Atheists put out this support statement/open letter:

We declare that the continued incarceration of Alexander Aan and the threat of bringing the force of a blasphemy law upon this person for the crime of expressing a disbelief in the religion of Islam to be an unacceptable violation of his freedom of expression as well as his freedom of belief.

We hope you, as the leader/representative of Indonesia, a country that is quickly developing into one of the most successful nations in the world, will take steps leading to concrete action that will show the world that Indonesia has truly become a developed and civilised country where a person may be free to believe and disbelieve as they please as well as the freedom to express their opinion without the fear of incarceration, violence, and any other repercussions that would impede a person’s right to speak freely.

We suggest the immediate actions as follows:
1. Dismiss any and all charges of blasphemy against Alexander.
2. To charge his assailants in the court of law for violent behaviour.

Is It all a moot point if new reports are true that Aan is now converting to Islam…?

An Indonesian atheist who was detained after declaring God did not exist on Facebook was considering abandoning his lack of religious faith and embracing Islam, police said Monday.

‘His parents came and told us that he wanted to repent,’ Dharmasraya police chief Chairul Aziz said by telephone.

First of all, it seems obvious that Aan may have said something to that extent to get the authorities off his back. He doesn’t have to mean it. He just doesn’t have any other choice, and it’s not in his best interests to stand by his convictions.

Second, even if he repented, the charges would still proceed (blasphemy charges don’t get overturned because you suddenly, magically “found god”).

So what is there to do at this point? There’s a petition you can sign, though it may not do anything. There’s a Facebook group here and here, though those are often a dime-a-dozen. But I’m not saying that to be dismissive. Each of those things may not be helpful by themselves, but together, they raise awareness of the issue and bring Aan’s story to a wider audience.

Alonzo Fyfe offers a solution along those lines, lest the entire story be forgotten:

Has anything been done to identify, arrest, and convict those who are guilty of assault against Mr. Aan? Or is the message being spread throughout Indonesia that acts of violence against theists are acceptable and shall not be punished?

We should be demanding that action be taken of those guilty of assaulting Aan, at the very least to establish a precedent and to give a warning, for the sake of all atheists, that these forms of violent response to atheist beliefs are to be shunned.

Finally, Atheist Alliance International has launched an appeal in Aan’s defense and they’re also collecting money to “help pay for Aan’s legal costs and to support the Aan family’s living expenses while he is in jail.”

Whatever you do, don’t ignore this story. Keep him in your thoughts and let that inspire you to take some sort of action.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Yukimi

    There’s a typo on the last quote:
    “… Or is the message being spread throughout Indonesia that acts of violence against theists…” -> it should be Atheist, shouldn’t it?

  • Prosey

    And I’m certain that his conversion to Islam was of his own free will…

  • ReligionsAreMyths

    I think that he will only be a Muslim in public and in front of his family and friends but he has to be an Atheist in private. Islamic goups can boast all they want by this news but he is an Atheist and personally he will always be an Atheist but since he’s in a country that treats Atheists badly then he has no choice but pretend to embrace Islam.

  • Xeon2000

    When you hold a gun to someone’s head and tell them to believe… well, I’d imagine most of them will say they believe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=714214638 Barry Taylor

    He probably “converted” so he doesn’t get harmed in prison. Anyone with any sense would do the same.

    • pats

      yes,thats true,and i do not blame him.
      afterall,any human would do anything to save his life…even if a small lie would help,we lie.
      but still i belive he stands behind his words.i dont know mr.aan personally,ive never spoke to him or read his post  ateis minang but what i have learned to know him from other ppl,im sure he is only buying some time and/or saving himself&family.
      i dont blame him.islam is pure evil to “disbeliever” and to them alexander is disbeliever,but in my eyes he only represent himself and his believes.so fuck authority,human is much more valuable than a fictious person and a fairytale book

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I’ve been following the 
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Support-Alex-Aans-Human-Rights/194025204028128?sk=info group, and they seem to be going to great lengths to do things correctly.  They were funneling donations through the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (
    http://ex-muslim.org.uk/2012/01/in-defence-of-alex-aan/) before Atheist Alliance International was available.

    And if you’ve signed a different petition previously, please sign this one!  Great care was taken to make sure it was well written and also translated into Indonesian.

    I supported both Jessica and Damon, but Alex is the one who is truly in danger of his life. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003293001320 Diana Winters

    Silly religions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luther-Weeks/100001027655434 Luther Weeks

    Sounds like a death bed conversion. But in this case god immediately protected him from almost certain death. Sainthood on the horizon for the ready assassin who caused the miracle?

  • Anonymous

    Is it reverse-Al-taqiyya?

  • http://profiles.google.com/k0ks3nw4i s3nw4i k0k

    Thanks for highlighting our group and our first (very modest) open letter project, Hemant! Much appreciated. So few people know about the plight of Alexander in Malaysia and we aim to remedy that.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Malaysia has similar issues, but Alex is in Indonesia.

      • http://profiles.google.com/k0ks3nw4i s3nw4i k0k

        I am aware of that Rich. What I meant to say is that this issue needs wider coverage in Malaysia as well, seeing as we are sitting in the same region as Indonesia and has rather close diplomatic ties with them. I certainly didn’t imply that Alex is physically in Malaysia.

  • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

    I’d convert too if I had to spend 5 years in an Indonesian jail. 
    To me it just shows how silly these religionists are. “See, he found god now, you atheists must be wrong”. 

     


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