Christian Politician in Indonesia Is Freed After Blasphemy Prison Term

merlin_121812149_3d86d3ce-82c4-4b6b-9cf0-d76d64db4b7a-superJumboBANGKOK — It began with a political jest and culminated in a shocking prison sentence.

On Thursday, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a former governor of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, was released from prison after serving nearly two years for blasphemy against Islam.

An ethnic Chinese Christian in a country with the world’s largest Muslim population, Mr. Basuki, 52, ran afoul of Indonesia’s blasphemy law when he tried to counter suggestions that faithful Muslims should not support non-Muslim politicians.

As Muslim supporters cheered him on during a public event in 2016, Mr. Basuki said in a joking manner that a particular verse in the Quran was being misused to dissuade Muslims from voting for him.

The off-the-cuff comment, which was later edited online to sound dismissive of the Muslim holy book, incensed hard-line Muslim groups, some of which have called for an Islamic caliphate to replace Indonesia’s secular democracy.


Covenantal Theology: Can Muhammad’s Ancient Promise Inspire Muslim-Christian Peace Today?

85674Christians esteem the biblical progression of covenants—Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic—finalized by Jesus as he ushered in the New.

But for the sake of religious freedom in the Muslim world, should they embrace a further covenant: Muhammadian?

Modern scholarship suggests the Muslim Prophet’s Christian covenants could offer contemporary guidance; they already influenced a favorable verdict in the case of Christian Asia Bibi in Pakistan.

After eight long years on death row, Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy by the Muslim nation’s Supreme Court in late October. The Christian mother of five had been sentenced for uttering contempt for Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, while attempting to drink water from a well.

The three-judge panel ruled that contradictions in accuser testimony and Bibi’s forced confession by a local cleric rendered the charges invalid.But in the official court document, one justice went as far as to partially base his judgement on how Bibi’s accusers violated an ancient covenant of Muhammad to the Christian monks of Mount Sinai—“eternal and universal … not limited to [them] alone.”

“Blasphemy is a serious offense,” wrote judge Asif Khosa, “but the insult of the appellant’s religion … was also not short of being blasphemous.”

He referenced a 2013 book by John Morrow, a Canadian convert to Islam. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World is an academic study of six treaties commanding the kind treatment of Christians, reportedly dated to the seventh century.

Each similar in scope, they command Muslims not to attack peaceful Christian communities, to aid in the construction and repair of churches, and even to allow self-regulation of tax payments.


True Islam Does Not Kill Blasphemers

21AKYOL-2-superJumboThe agony of Asia Bibi, a 54-year-old Roman Catholic and mother of five, shows there is something rotten in her country, Pakistan — and in the broader world of Islam.

She was arrested for blasphemy in 2009 after Muslim co-workers on a destitute farm denounced her for merely drinking from the same cup and, during the subsequent quarrel, for “insulting Prophet Muhammad” — a charge Ms. Bibi always denied. Yet she was convicted in 2010 and spent the next eight years in solitary confinement, on death row.

Luckily, Pakistan’s Supreme Court last month saved her from execution, clearing her of the charges and also setting her free. But Pakistan’s militant Islamists, especially those in the notorious Tehreek-e-Labbaik religious party, which is obsessed with punishing blasphemers, were enraged. They forced the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan to accept a court petition to reverse the case and bar Ms. Bibi from leaving the country. She and her family, fearing vigilante violence, went into hiding.

I am hoping that the traumatized family will be able to leave Pakistan safely, to find asylum in some free nation. As a Muslim, I feel ashamed of the cruelty they have suffered at the hands of people who act in the name of my faith.


Pakistan’s High Court Acquits Asia Bibi, Christian Woman On Death Row For Blasphemy

asiaPakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday announced the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy in a case that has roiled the country.

In the courtroom, it took less a minute for the chief justice, Saqib Nisar, to upturn a series of legal rulings that had kept Bibi on death row for eight years.

In terse remarks to the hushed, packed courtroom, he said that Bibi’s conviction and sentence had been voided.

In a 56-page verdict issued after the ruling, the three-judge bench appeared to side with Bibi’s advocates. They have maintained that the case against the 51-year-old illiterate farmhand was built around a grievance by her fellow Muslim workers, who appeared angry that she might drink from the same vessel as them. She was ordered by a local landlord to bring water to the women on a day while they were picking berries.

The judges cited the Quran, Islamic scholars and Shakespeare in their impassioned verdict, arguing that blasphemy allegations had led to vigilante killings. In Bibi’s case, they wrote, her accusers had not conclusively proved her guilt.


U.S. Muslim reformer blasts Indonesia for jailing Christian governor on trumped-up blasphemy charges

buildings-203194_1280-696x464Indonesia earlier this week threw a Christian outgoing governor in the slammer for “blasphemy.”

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok,  was convicted earlier this week of the “crime” of saying the Koran allows non-Muslims to rule over Muslims.

The comment was followed by months of protests by radicals — some demonstrations saw hundreds of thousands of people — calling for Ahok to be punished.

Experts said Ahok committed no crime, and that his conviction amounted to the government caving to the demands of radical Islamist riff-raff.

Many Indonesians are wondering whether this is just the beginning, and whether radical Islamists will grow even more powerful, at a time when radical Islamist ideology is spreading throughout Southeast Asia. 

Across the ocean in the United States, moderate Muslims are concerned.

Zuhdi Jasser, an American Mulism reformist and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told Borderless News Online that Indonesia is plagued by the worsening threat of radical Islam.

“Indonesia has long been one of the most hopeful Muslim majority nations and democracies for planting the seeds of liberal reforms against global Islamism…(But)like most Muslim populations it is besieged by the growing threat of popular Islamist movements,” said Jasser, who is also the co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement. He added that countries awash in oil money, like Saudi Arabia, have also played a role by financing such movements.

“We are beyond disappointed if not despondent at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) to see the ruling party and judiciary cave in to the Islamists on so many fronts in Indonesia,” he said, noting free speech and blasphemy laws are two main issues under which the courts buckled to Islamist pressure.


Suspension of Pakistan women’s death sentence ‘shows need’ for Christian-Muslim dialogue

pakistan-christians-protestThe suspension of the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman charged with blasphemy, by the Pakistan Supreme court has showed the value of Muslim-Christian dialogue, says a priest in the Islamic nation.

“The Supreme Court of Pakistan has made a great move as her death sentence was put aside,” Father James Channan said in a July 23 interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“I firmly believe that justice will be done, that she will be proven innocent and that she will be released,” said the Roman Catholic Dominican priest.

He noted, “The blasphemy law was used (in Bibi’s case) to settle a personal score – the accusation was an act of revenge.”

The Pakistani woman has denied the accusation, saying her accusers were acting out of a personal vendetta.

Asia Bibi spent nearly five years on death following an accusation that she insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad during an argument, Catholic News Agency reported.

Earlier in July the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended Bibi’s execution, and will soon hear her appeal.

However, CNA reported that many Pakistanis have spoken out against the court’s decision and have said it would carry out the execution even if she is deemed innocent.


Pakistani Islamic scholars call to punish killers of couple

2013-09-14-Minhaj-ul-Quran-Interfaith-relation-Lahore_12iLAHORE: Islamic scholars and leaders on Friday continued their condemnation of the killing of a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan and expressed deep sorrow and sympathies with the bereaved family.

International Council for Peace and Harmony Pakistan (ICPH) chairman and Badshahi Masjid Lahore chief Khateeb Maulana Abdul Khabeer Azad strongly condemned the incident, describing it against the teachings of Islam.

Maulana Azad visited the bereaved family along with an IPCH delegation, also including Christian leaders, and stressed that Islam strictly prohibits the murder of innocent individuals.He said if someone was accused of any blasphemy, they should be convicted and punished by a competent court only.

Those accompanying him included Father James Channan, Father Shahid Mehraj, Fr Akram Gill, Maulana Muhammad Khan Leghari, Mufti Abdul Moeed Asad, Kazim Raza Naqvi, Maulana Habib-ur-Rehman Akhtar, Mufti Saifullah Khalid and Hafiz Abdul Qadir.

Maulana Azad praised the Punjab government for constituting an inquiry committee and compensating the bereaved family for their irreparable loss. He demanded early and exemplary punishment for the culprits.

Meanwhile, leaders of the World Council of Religions (WCR) termed the incident one of the saddest and said as Muslims they could say that Allah and His Prophet (PBUH) were with the victims of the brutality.