Hnn | HNN Articles

The Story of Alexander Aan: An Indonesian Atheist Fears for His Life

 

By Matthew Bulger

America may have its own issues with non-believers and secularism, but atheistic Americans should be thankful that they likely won’t ever have to experience the abuse that Alexander Aan has been subjected to in the past few months.

Alexander is something of a rarity in Indonesia—a non-believer. While the Indonesian constitution does guarantee freedom of religion, the government only recognizes six official religions (Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism), and Indonesian law requires that every citizen hold an ID card that identifies that person with one of the six official religions. Almost every Indonesian identifies with some faith, with 87% of Indonesians identifying themselves as Muslim, 7% as Protestant, 3% as Catholic, 2% as Hindu, and 0.8% as Buddhist.

Unfortunately, Indonesia does not recognize agnosticism or atheism, and blasphemy is illegal, often carrying at least a 5-year jail sentence for offenders. Alexander, who works as a civil servant in Indonesia, found this out the hard way when he posted “God does not exist” on his Facebook page.

When Alexander arrived at work at the Dharmasraya Development Planning Board the next day a group of men, many of them also civil servants, attacked and beat him before police arrived and took him into protective custody. Police are now holding him until his trial for blasphemy is completed, although authorities moved Alexander from his local prison after he was badly beaten by a group of inmates who knew about his case.

But his potential jail sentence is not the only punishment Alexander faces. He is likely to lose his job, and Muslim extremists have called for Aan to be beheaded. Alexander’s is the first case in which an atheist is being tried in relation to the first pillar of Indonesia's state philosophy – pancasila, which requires religious belief of Indonesia’s citizens.

The Indonesian government now faces an important decision—will they stand up to support the human rights of all Indonesian citizens to believe or disbelieve as they choose, or will they reaffirm the tyrannical and discriminatory anti-blasphemy laws? This decision will determine not only Alexander’s fate, but the fate of those who are without religion in Indonesia.

The American Humanist Association is already working on behalf atheists abroad who have been abused for their disbelief by meeting with officials from the U.S. Department of State's Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF).  We are pleased to report that the IRF intends to increase its promotion of the freedom to not believe through new international program work and comprehensive reports on atheist or humanist discrimination abroad. If you are aware of discrimination against nonbelievers outside of the United States, we would like to hear from you (hnn@americanhumanist.org).

You can also join us in our effort to promote international religious freedom by contributing to Alexander’s legal defense fund. Alexander is just one of many non-believers who can’t be open with their disbelief for fear of punishment, but with your help he may be the catalyst for global change. We must remind the world that religious freedom isn’t just about the freedom to believe in a minority religion free from governmental and societal oppression. Until non-believers can feel safe in their disbelief, the world will never truly know religious freedom.

Matthew Bulger is the legislative and program assistant for the American Humanist Association.

blog comments powered by Disqus

American Humanist Association

Washington Post illustration by Herblock from 1963. Still an unsettled issue......

20 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Our lawsuit challenging 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is trending on F...

21 hours ago

American Humanist Association

A major newspaper in New Jersey. The Star-Ledger, published an editorial in supp...

23 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Did you catch Roy Speckhardt's interview on Fox and Friends this morning? Watch...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss it! AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt will be on Fox and Friends...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Pledge of Allegiance without the use of "Under God" did not cause harm to t...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Great News! Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island just issued a proclamation r...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

A great video for Earth Day! Isaac Asimov discusses saving the planet for future...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Responding to reporters this morning as the AHA's latest case gets national atte...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Lots of press coverage this morning on our New Jersey lawsuit challenging 'under...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Earth Day Everyone! Be kind to your Earth. It's where you live!

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Congratulations to Ventura County, California for now officially recognizing May...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Taken from a 1940's Justice Society Of America comic before "Under God" was adde...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association has filed lawsuit against “Under God” in the P...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The 2014 American Atheists Conference was awesome! Check out pictures of the Ame...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone!

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Humanist Poll! http://thehumanist.com/arts_entertainment/culture/your-humanist-...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Announcing our 2014 AHA Annual Conference Keynote Speaker, Professor Max Tegmark...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Have you had this problem? The Ethical Dilemma: My Son Sends Me E-Mails Signed...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Hurry! Going to the AHA annual conference in Philly? May 5th is the last day to...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Rules Are for Schmucks: Darwin Award Nominee by Luis Granados. http://thehumani...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Cartoon History of Humanism Episode Three: The Archpoet, 12th-Century Gang...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Throwback Thursday! The January/February, 1989 issue of the Humanist magazine...

7 days ago