Today’s New York Times Features the Story of Alexander Aan, Who Spent 19 Months in Jail for Promoting Atheism

It’s good to see an article about Alexander Aan in today’s New York Times. Aan,. you may recall, is the atheist from Indonesia who was thrown in jail for 19 months for “inciting religious hatred” (which is really code for: he was promoting atheism online).

Joe Cochrane writes:

Mr. Aan’s troubles began in January 2012 when a mob in the Dharmasraya district of West Sumatra showed up looking for him at a government planning office where he worked as a data analyst.

“They wanted me to stop saying there is no God,” he said. “I told them that it was my right to express my beliefs.”

Police officers were called to prevent any violence, and they instead escorted Mr. Aan to the local police station, where he found himself being interrogated and, within hours, charged with disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred. The next day, he was charged with blasphemy and inciting others to embrace atheism.

Aan has shown nothing but courage since his arrest. He did nothing wrong, of course, but it would’ve been easy to just pretend to be religious. Instead, he took the hit and stood up for his non-belief. It’s good to see his story reaching a wider audience. There are no mentions of any secular groups in the article — but maybe we deserve that. A petition to get the White House to intervene in Aan’s case didn’t reach enough signatures to warrant government attention — we failed Aan when he needed us the most.

Aan is applying to graduate school now to obtain a Masters in Physics — a refreshing change of pace for him, I’m sure. Cochrane notes that Aan doesn’t talk about religion online these days. I can understand why, but I hope that changes if and when he can get out of Indonesia.

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.


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