A COURTROOM was trashed and churches and schools burned in Java yesterday after hundreds of Muslims went on the rampage in a protest over a “too light” sentence demanded by prosecutors for a Christian accused of blasphemy.
Violence broke out after prosecutors requested a five-year sentence – the maximum allowed under Indonesian law – for Antonius Richmond Bawengan, 58, who is accused of distributing materials that insulted Islam.
Bawengan was on trial for distributing books and flyers in October last year which described the Black Stone, or al-Hajaru-l-Aswad, on the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque in Mecca as looking like a woman’s genitals.
The material Bawengan is accused of distributing also described the jamarat – three stone pillars in the city of Mina just east of Mecca which worshippers throw stones at during the Haj – as looking like a man’s genitals.
According to this report, police fired warning shots and used tear gas to restore calm in the district of Temanggung, 400km east of Jakarta, after the violence initially broke out at the Temanggung District Court but quickly spilled onto the streets with the crowd demanding the accused be given the death penalty.
The angry mob then trashed the courtroom before targeting Christian sites, burning down a number of churches and schools.
There were also sporadic clashes with police before calm was restored.
Bawengan, who has been in custody since October 26, has also been accused of describing Islam as a “cruel religion”.
The violence in Temanggung comes just days after a mob in Pandeglang in Banten Province in western Java attacked a gathering of the Ahmadiyah Muslim sect, killing three and injuring others.
Ahmadiyah followers believe in the teachings of their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as well as the Prophet Mohammed, which mainstream Muslims believe is blasphemy towards Islam.