Indonesian Alexander Aan Sentenced to Jail for His Atheism

The American Humanist Association (AHA) will be highlighting the case of Alexander Aan in its ongoing work with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF). Aan is the Indonesian man who was sentenced earlier this month to two and a half years in jail and a $10,600 fine for “spreading religious hatred” because he posted “God does not exist” on his Facebook page along with unflattering pictures of Mohammad. Humanist Network News featured a story about Aan in its May 17 issue.

Indonesia has had a reputation for religious tolerance, but only for the state’s six recognized religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Being convicted of blasphemy can send someone to jail for up to five years. In this case, the court dismissed the charges of blasphemy and promoting atheism, but convicted Aan on the charge of spreading religious hatred. An appeal is planned.

“This is the type of case that should scare everyone who wants a world where religious freedoms include those who don’t believe in the existence of gods,” said American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “We will continue to collaborate with the Office of International Religious Freedom to support the freedom to not believe.”

The Aan case is not the only story coming out of Indonesia recently concerning religious intolerance. Lady Gaga cancelled a concert after threats from Islamic fundamentalists, a book publisher accused of printing a book that defamed Mohammad had the books burned, and in the Aceh province sharia law is in effect and being used to try and ban tight clothing and the closure of 20 churches.