Alexander Aan and Me

Alexander Aan and Me July 20, 2012

Considering the maniacal focus I’ve had on the case of Alexander Aan at work, it’d be remiss of me not to deal with it on my own blog. So a quick recap.

Alexander Aan, a civil servant in West Sumatra, Indonesia, posted on Facebook his lack of belief in God and some satirical cartoons about Islam. As a result, he was beat by an angry mob, arrested for atheism, and charged with disseminating information that might incite religious hatred. He facts over two years in jail and a fine that equals about $10,600.

Here’s me, you see. Not only do I get to sit here and blog about atheism and criticize the great scam that is religion, and at worst I could be ostracized by certain segments of our culture. Those may be some pretty big and important segments! But I’m not in any immediate danger because of it.

Oh wait. I actually get paid to be an unbeliever! I work for an organization, one of the prime purposes of which is to advocate on behalf of atheism, secularism, and humanism, all the while trying to lessen the influence of religion on public life. It’s my job.

I won’t be charged with a crime for it. I likely won’t be attacked physically for it. But that’s what happened to Alexander.

Now, I’ve been beaten up before. As some readers know, I was attacked by two thugs on the street near my apartment in DC in 2010, and it was by several orders of magnitude the worst thing ever to happen to me. It was terrifying, painful, and it sent me on a spiral of fear, guilt, self-loathing, anger, and anxiety that I still work every day to recover from.

But I didn’t get attacked by an angry mob. Alexander did. I didn’t get attacked because of who I am, or what I believe, but Alexander did. When I was attacked, the perpetrators were arrested and put in jail.

But Alexander was the one arrested and put in jail. His attackers are doing just fine.

I really don’t know anything about Alexander. I wrote about the letter he sent to supporters in a kind of charming broken English, so he seems like a gentle guy. But who knows. But I put myself in his place, and I can only imagine what he’s going through. I can approach it in my own mind, but I know that the terror and anger and fear must be multiplied from my own.

So I really want you to do this small thing: sign my organization’s petition to get the White House’s attention, and please, please, please share it with as many people as possible. Nonbelievers and theists alike. It has to get to 25,000 signatures to guarantee a response. If you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly progressive-minded with a social conscience, and know how to share a link and send an email. Please do that. It’s literally the least you can all do.

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