Lifestyle & Belief

Indonesian president pushes for United Nations blasphemy law to defend Islam


Indonesian President Susilo Bamabang Yudhoyono waves as he arrives to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Russia's far eastern port city Vladivostok on September 8, 2012.



Today in New York, at a major United Nations General Assembly gathering, Indonesia's president is expected to push for a global "blasphemy" law to prevent the denigration of religion, according to the Jakarta Post.

This is a curious move for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, leader of the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. His proposal is a reaction to the anti-Islam "Innocence of Muslims" online video (calling it a "film" is far too flattering) that sparked bloody protests worldwide.

Yudhoyono must know that this proposed bill will never, ever pass.

He must also know that the United States government -- the location where the low-rent video was filmed and the location of YouTube, its primary distribution platform -- would never submit to a U.N. law that contradicts the nation's basic freedoms of speech.

This push is doubly curious given that Indonesia's Muslims, by and large, were not baited by the film into destructive protests. The film brought out the familiar cast of characters who forever rally over perceived slights to Islam and, yes, there were acts of mob violence outside U.S. embassies that ended in injuries. But angry crowds of several hundred or even 1,000 hardly represent popular sentiment in a nation of 242 million people.

It appears that Indonesia's president is simply doing his bit for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation or OIC. The Saudi Arabia-based league of 57 nations, Indonesia included, has long pushed for this sort of blasphemy law on a global scale. 

As noted by the Jakarta Post, Indonesia already has its own blasphemy law, a code that has helped jail a host of Muslims who stray from the nation's mainstream Sunni branch. Similar laws exist in large Muslim states such as Iran and Pakistan.

But this is a pitch to extend such laws across the world and, in the words of the current OIC leader quoted by Reuters, force the West to "come out of hiding from behind the excuse of freedom of expression."