Alexander Aan: Our Plea to the President, My Plea to You

I’ll begin with the lede: There is a critical petition launched by the Center for Inquiry on behalf of Alexander Aan, the jailed Indonesian atheist (I promise this won’t be the only thing I write about here, but this is very important). We want the White House to speak out on his behalf, but I describe this as critical because in order to guarantee a response from the Obama administration, we need to muster 25,000 signatures by August 16th, 2012.

I believe we can do it, but it means we all have to do more than just click and forget it. I get it, it’s really easy to feel very much removed from Alexander’s situation. He’s thousands of miles away and part of a culture that makes little sense to us in the west. His crisis, which is actually hardly unique, can seem remote and abstract to us.

But listen: In so many respects, Alexander Aan has a great deal in common with many of the readers of this site and people we know. We don’t know him well, of course, but we do know that he is an atheist and a skeptic who values science and reason. He keeps a blog about his interests and posts relevant material on social networking sites like Facebook. He has a satirical sense of humor that can offend those with an investment in a religiously conservative status quo.

But the great chasm that separates us from Alexander is not really physical distance. This very moment, Alexander sits in an Indonesian prison cell, where he is condemned to spend at least two and a half years, saddled with an exorbitant fine, and under constant threat for his life — indeed, he has already been beaten by an angry mob once. What should be galling to us is that Alexander’s “criminal offense” was his very similarity our own community of freethinkers: charged with atheism (a crime in Indonesia) and convicted of “inciting religious hatred or hostility.”

As these violations of basic human rights have unfolded, CFI (my employer) has been working to raise awareness of Alexander’s plight and to do what we can to see him exonerated and freed. We’ve protested outside the Indonesian Consulate in New York City, demonstrated in front of the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, written letters demanding his release to Indonesian government officials and diplomats, and written and spoken about him on our blogs and podcasts.

I feel like our latest move, this petition, might be our best hope to get something moving for Alexander. I know you’ll have no problem signing it, but then our challenge is to spread the word. To tell all our friends and social network connections that, in between the image macros and GIFs, there is a guy who needs this community’s help. He knows we’re rooting for him. But let’s do just that little bit more — if we can’t move mountains for him, let’s at least see if we can nudge a White House.

About Paul Fidalgo

Paul is communications director for the Center for Inquiry, as well as an actor and musician. His blog is iMortal, and he tweets as @paulfidalgo, and the blog tweets as @iMortal_blog.
The opinions expressed on this blog are personal to Paul and do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for Inquiry.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HXMGJONKJJ35BYMNFHNGXMXH2U Mary P.

    Signed and passed on.

    • 3lemenope

      Ditto.

  • Skippy

    Done!

  • Savoy47

    I was #816.

     

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    It’s time for the UN to be more aggressive about pushing countries to allow religious freedom.

  • ImRike

    931. And placed on facebook. Hope we’ll make it!

  • Gib

    As well as signing the petition to try to get all charges dropped, if it should fail, we should make sure he’s not out of pocket for the fine, which is apparently $10,600 USD equivalent.

    How much did he make per year before the jailing?  Is it possible to do some fundraising to make sure his family aren’t out of pocket while he’s unable to work?

  • http://twitter.com/smokie_monster Smokie

    Signed. I don’t even know this man but I remember reading about this injustice last night and lying awake in my bed before I fell asleep wondering how alone and  scared he must feel, just for having rational and sensible ideas about life. It’s just wrong, he needs to get out of there.

    • http://nearearthobject.net/ Paul Fidalgo

      This is just how I feel. I have to think others would too if they really thought about it.

  • http://www.dougberger.net Doug B.

    The government spends so much time on theistic freedom in other countries you would think they could carve out a slice for non-theists

  • Ali

    This makes me angry, I didn’t realise religious oppression was still around. Would sign the petition but I’m not from the US.


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