Alexander Aan, Atheist Who Blasphemed on Facebook, Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

Alexander Aan is the Indonesian who made the terrible, horrible mistake of posting “blasphemous” statements about Islam and statements asking for proof of god’s existence on a Facebook group page for the Minang Atheists.

Aan was arrested in a small town in West Sumatra on January 18 after a number of local residents assaulted him at work in an act of self-styled vigilantism. They were reacting to some of his postings on a Facebook page devoted to atheism: a note entitled “the Prophet Muhammad was attracted to his own daughter-in-law”; a comic suggesting the Prophet slept with his wife’s maid; and a status update reading, “If you believe in god, then please show him to me.”

Today, officials sentenced him to 2.5 years in prison for his “crime.” Indonesia is a country where the Constitution says that all citizens must believe in god.

Carlos A. Diaz, President of Atheist Alliance International, said “Alex simply stated his personal view on the topic of religion, yet he now faces years in jail. This judgement is an affront to the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Indonesia’s blasphemy laws are archaic, an embarrassment to a country that appears to be striving to join the developed world and should be repealed immediately.”

Right now, the available options seem limited. But you can contact Indonesian authorities (PDF) and donate to Aan’s legal fund.

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.

  • GodlessPoutine

    This has got me hopping mad!  I’m going to write the minister of external affairs here in Canada, John Baird.  He’s the same one who’s pushing the Office of Religious Freedoms here.  Him and his conservative supporters have tried to pull the wool over secular groups here in Canada by saying that “freedom of religion” also means “freedom to not believe” or some such equivalents.

    I believe the US has a similar office as well.    

    Edit a few minutes later: Actually now that I stop and think about it – A letter to *BOTH* would be better.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I think Mississippi just called Indonesia and asked them if they could join their country.

    • Jacob

      Every time there’s a story like this, all people do is make joking comparisons to America’s religiosity. How about actually expressing outrage at the incident itself and offering to help the individual affected?

      • icecreamassassin

        Jacob, I get what you’re saying and everything, but my suspicion is that those expressing outrage on this blog would be basically preaching to the choir, and that the only thing they can really do in a blog comment regarding offering to help the individual is to actually donate time and/or money and then brag about it on here – and I’m totally OK with people doing the active ‘help’ thing without the bragging portion.

        Based on the major demographic of Hemant’s readers, I would be surprised if you found even *one* individual who did not find this appalling (non-religious or otherwise).  The joking is basically to let off some steam in the face of extreme injustice.

      • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

        As Stephen Colbert said, “If I wasn’t laughing, I’d be crying.”

      • bigdwarren

         Unless you plan on ending ALL religion today, that poor man has ZERO chance to be helped! Mocking ALL religion is the only way to point out these bul lsh it  laws!

  • Aljaž Kozina

    Sign this petition!
    http://www.change.org/petitions/drop-charges-against-alex-aan-for-blaspheming-islam 
    Maybe this might contribute towards resolving the terrible, horrible mistake of imprisoning Alex Aan. If not this, then someone will think of something else.

  • Annie

    Is it common practice for ambassadors to have the H.E. prefix in front of their names?  I always thought that carried a religious connotation.   (Several of the ambassadors on the linked page have it.)

    • Veronica Abbass

      Excellency,
      an honorific style given to certain holders of high-ranking offices of
      state or influential organizations such as a Bishop, Archbishop,
      President, Ambassador or Prime Minister.

      Canadian governors general are given that title during their term in office.

      • Annie

        Thanks Veronica.  I was thinking it stood for “His Eminence”, which has more of a religious connection.

  • CanadianNihilist

     ” Indonesia is a country where the Constitution says that all citizens must believe in god”

    He probably should have said he believed in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The evidence for FSM is about the same as it is for any other god.

    • Gates

      Apparently their government only “recognizes” five religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Indonesia

      • Bdbsnnxh

        That is 6 religions

        • Gates

          Catholicism and Protestantism = Christianity

          • Sinfanti

             Knock that down to 4 after you consolidate the Christians and figure that Confucianism is a philosophy and not a religion.

            • Pseudonym

              Confucianism as much a religion as anything, but more to the point, Confucians almost always don’t believe in deities. So much for the constitution.

      • Nilkashyap09

        But baushism is based on asking question about god.And some sections of hinduism are actually atheist.Dont those people know about it?

  • jdm8

    I don’t see any constitutional requirement for a citizen to believe in god.

    Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Constitution_of_the_Republic_of_Indonesia#Section_XI_:_Religion

    “Section XI : Religion

    Article 29

    The state is based on the belief in the One and Only God.The state guarantees each and every citizen the freedom of religion and of worship in accordance with his religion and belief.”

    If that really is interpreted as a requirement to be religious, I think the problem is a lot more a faulty interpretation than the actual document. I mean, if your religion and belief is “none”, then your freedom to believe that should be guaranteed.

  • Anonymous Coward

    clearly we should just bomb indonesia.

  • Corey

    OH….LIKE THE GOOD OLE DAYS IN AMERICA, EXCEPT CHRISTIANS PUNISHED (BANISHED/LYNCHED) ANY ONE WHO DISAGREED WITH THEM….ACTUALLY, THIS IS HOW CHRISIANITY SPREAD ACROSS THE WORLD BEFORE THERE WAS AN AMERICA.

  • Michael De Dora

    FYI: in response to today’s ruling, the Center for Inquiry is organizing
    a protest outside the Indonesian embassy in Washington, D.C. The
    protest will take place next week, most likely on Monday afternoon, June
    18. If you can attend, email Michael De Dora (that’s me) at mdedora@centerforinquiry.net

    More information here: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/news/center_for_inquiry_condemns_jailing_of_indonesian_atheist_for_inciting_reli/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Harvey/100000013774179 Linda Harvey

    Indonesia is going backwards faster than a speeding bullet.

  • http://www.summerseale.com/ Summer Seale

    And then the sanctimonious invariably will forget and ask us, in a few days, why atheists care so much about what other people believe.

  • http://www.summerseale.com/ Summer Seale

    “Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.”  – Hitchens.

  • http://twitter.com/WaffleWolfer Dan

    Letter sent to government officials:

    Good day.It has come to my attention that 32-year-old Alex Aan, an avowed atheist, was recently sentenced to a two-and-a-half year jail term for stating his lack of belief on the Internet and offending the Islamic faith.One is driven to question the integrity of any belief system (or zealous dogma, as the case may be) when its members feel the need to silence any and all criticism, however constructive. One of Mr. Aan’s crimes consisted of “insulting the Prophet Muhammad”. If the good Prophet were to possess an ounce of divine power, surely he wouldn’t see the need to enlist the Indonesian government and justice system to underline his potency and provide protection.I am voicing my strident opposition to this decision, alongside many other people globally, and I am demanding Aan’s full and immediate release without condition. Anything less is evident of your government’s tyrannical inclination to stifle free expression, and the world will not forget it.

  • FleetAdmiralAkainu

    lol whats this religiontards getting butthurt over simple opinions? what else is new.

    • fracturedman

      Because opinions, especially personal opinions, are a danger to organized religion and government. Since in Indonesia they are one in the same, personal opinions are very dangerous.

  • http://twitter.com/RobinEdgar Robin Edgar

    “Indonesia’s blasphemy laws are archaic, an embarrassment to a country that appears to be striving to join the developed world and should be repealed immediately.”

    Believe it or not the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston is accusing me of the crime of blasphemous libel, which is still “on the books” in the Canadian Criminal Code, for allegedly making “unfounded and vicious allegations to the effect that ministers of the Association engage in such despicable crimes as pedophilia and rape.” Of course the key word here is *unfounded* and the comparatively few allegations that I have made about Unitarian Universalists engaging in “such despicable crimes as pedophilia and rape” are by no means unfounded. . . It will be interesting to see how this plays out but the Unitarian Universalist Association and its Stikeman Elliott attorney Marc-André Coulombe have not responded to any of my emails responding to their accusations for the better part of two months now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/desertraider91 Chad Phriday

    This could be me. As religious as my country is, I’m glad it’s not this bad. Hang in there, Alex. Nelson Mandela did much longer jail time than this. Laws are fucked. Movements change them. People change them. Keep fighting, everyone!


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