Many in the atheist blogosphere by now know that an Indonesian man has been arrested for writing that God did not exist on a Facebook page.
According to the Indonesian Embassy website, "Six world religions are formally recognized in Indonesia: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Buddhism." Of course, atheism isn't a religion, but the Indonesian government doesn't even give you the option to opt out of having to select any religion at all.
The problem with Indonesia is more than just the fact that atheism is not legally permitted. Even adherents of officially recognised religions are facing increasing discrimination at the hands of militant Sunni Muslims.
The following excerpt from this article from Human Rights Watch tells the story:
Religious tolerance in Indonesia is in danger. There has been a surge in deadly sectarian attacks against religious communities and dozens of mosques and churches have been forced to close. In the first nine months of 2011, the Setara Institute, which monitors religious freedom in Indonesia, documented 184 incidents of religious violence — a higher rate than the annual average of 204 such attacks over the last four years. About 80 percent of these attacks took place on Java, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, and targeted Christians, Shia Muslims, Bahai, and the Ahmadiyah, who consider themselves Muslim but whom many Muslims consider heretics.
Attacks against the Ahmadiyah have gotten increasingly violent because perpetrators know sectarian violence is not seriously prosecuted in Indonesia. In a deadly attack in February, a 1,500-strong mob of Islamist militants beat three Ahmadiyah men to death and seriously injured five others in the village of Cikeusik, Banten. Although the brutal violence was captured on film, only 12 of the attackers were tried and they received prison sentences of just three to six months. The prosecutors claimed the Ahmadiyah provoked the attack and sentenced one victim who nearly lost an arm to six months in prison for assault and disobeying police orders.
The Ahmadiyah are not the only victims. This year, militants have burned down Christian churches in Temanggung, Central Java, and a suicide bomber targeted a church in Solo, killing himself and wounding 14 churchgoers. Churches in Riau were burned down in August and now, perhaps in retaliation, a mosque in predominantly Christian West Timor is facing similar pressure to close.
The situation will only get worse unless the Indonesian government starts to take this problem seriously. No pluralistic society can survive if the fanatic members of one group start engaging in discriminatory and violent behavior against the other groups. My fellow atheists should condemn those who seek to denigrate, by their words or by their actions, people of other religions just as they would condemn those, like a certain presidential candidate, who attack atheists.
The address and contact info for the Indonesian Embassy are as follows:
2020 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036, USA
Phone (202) 775 - 5200; Fax. (202) 775 - 5365