Two Irish Senators support Alexander Aan in Indonesian blasphemy case

Following a briefing of politicians by Atheist Ireland on Tuesday, two Irish Senators have asked the Irish Government to support Alexander Aan, the indonesian civil servant who is facing blasphemy charges for writing on Facebook that God does not exist.

Speaking in the Seanad this Thursday, Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Ivana Bacik both asked Eamon Gilmore, who is Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, to take a strong line in support of Alexander.

Atheist Ireland thanks both Senators for their quick response to this case. We also thank Senator Ivana Bacik for her request in the Seanad on Wednesday for a full debate on the Irish blasphemy law and its national and international impact.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout:

I welcome the Tánaiste’s commitment to Internet freedom through his work as chair of the OSCE. It is on this note that I draw his attention to the recent arrest of a 31 year old Indonesian civil servant, whose name I will supply to the Tánaiste separately, for having questioned the existence of God on his Facebook profile page. He has been charged under Indonesian law prohibiting blasphemy and faces five years imprisonment if found guilty.

The reason I raise this case with the Tánaiste is that Indonesia is one of a number of Islamic states that has cited Irish blasphemy legislation in support and defence of its own. Irish blasphemy law was cited as an authority in support of Indonesia’s constitutional court decision to uphold its law prohibiting blasphemy in 2010.

While I fully support the repeal of this law, I do not believe the intention of the blasphemy legislation introduced by Mr. Dermot Ahern in 2009 was to infringe upon the rights to freedom of expression, religion, belief and conscience in Ireland. Nor do I think it is a desirable consequence that our law is being used to support such infringements, including against Christian religions in Islamic countries anywhere else in the world.

I consider this as much a foreign affairs concern as a domestic concern. I welcome that this law is up for review in the programme for Government.

Senator Ivana Bacik:

I would like to echo Senator van Turnhout in urging the Tánaiste to take a strong line in support of the Indonesian civil servant she mentioned. We need to examine our blasphemy law because it is clearly having a repressive effect in Indonesia, Pakistan and other countries. I know the matter will be reviewed as part of the constitutional convention, but I believe the law should be repealed. Perhaps progress can be made more quickly in this regard.

Here is the Seanad transcript of the above contributions and here is Senator Bacik’s request the previous day for a full debate on the Irish blasphemy law. Atheist Ireland asks everybody who reads this to contact your local politicians, your local Indonesian embassy, and the Indonesian Government to call for the immediate release of Alexander Aan.

Atheist Ireland


  1. Avatar
    Rafiq Mahmood February 03, 2012

    Thank you so much.

    I shall pass this news on to the groups supporting Alexander in Indonesia.

  2. Avatar
    Novaya Haikal February 03, 2012

    As an atheist who live in Indonesia , I just want to thank the Irish senators

  3. Avatar
    Novaya Haikal February 03, 2012

    We Indonesian atheists gotta fight for our right!

  4. Avatar
    Hardi Heri February 04, 2012

    I appreciate Atheist Ireland, we live in a wrong country, we can do much help to Alex Aan, but there is a big wall to reach him, someone can easily kill us for no rational reason, I hope International Atheist Alliance helping to free Alex.

  5. Avatar
    Jim Thio February 05, 2012

    I think it should be pretty clear that the limit between blasphemy and honest reasonable criticism is simply NOT clear. It’s very easy for anyone to count anyone pointing out obvious holes in an opinion as blasphemy.

    Imagine if you are accused of robbery. Imagine if witness testimonies are not credible. Imagine if the witness have sacred belief that he has supra-natural psychic glasses. Imagine if your lawyers then point out the obvious flaw that by itself, the proof is simply not sufficient. Your lawyers can get nailed by anti blasphemy laws for raising doubt on obviously very doubtful claim.

    That’s what’s happening to Alex now.

    Religions have been used to justify prosecuting so many people. Many of the claims used by religions are proven false. Yet, people raising doubt on those religious claims are nailed by anti blasphemy laws. This means religious leaders can do anything including justifying eliminating anyone they wish. It can happen in the whole world.

  6. Avatar
    fenchurch February 10, 2012

    That’s pretty cool that Ireland is supporting free speech abroad.
    I understand that they have their own troubles with blasphemy laws!

  7. Avatar
    Haji Datuk Soda March 14, 2012

    We have a sovereign right country.

    We get Our nation’s independence from Western colonial, with the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of heroes.
    They were scattered in every tomb around corners in Indonesia !

    Our country has sovereign power, ……. you have no right to set our nation law today.
    Colonialism and imperialism are over bro !

  8. Avatar
    Ku Bang March 14, 2012

    From the information I have collected Alex is charged as I suspected with the Pasal 156a KUHP (UU 1/1965) which reads:

    Pasal 156a
    Dipidana dengan pidana penjara selama-lumanya lima tahun barang siapa dengan sengaja di muka umum mengeluarkan perasaan atau melakukan perbuatan:
    a. yang pada pokoknya bersifat permusuhan, penyalahgunaan atau penodaan terhadap suatu agama yang dianut di Indonesia;
    b. dengan maksud agar supaya orang tidak menganut agama apa pun juga, yang bersendikan Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa.

    Being atheist per se is not illegal. Though you have to declare a religion to have any document you won’t be indicted if you decide that you have no faith. What has costed Alex his ordeal is the proselytism he has done by posting it on an internet FB group. That is what is legally reproached to him.
    Not only they will indict him with article 156a KUHP, but they also would like to charge him with article 27 (3) and article 45, UU 8/2011 tentang Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik (those who remember this poor girl who got in trouble for having criticized a hospital will notice that it is the same law) which reads:

    Pasal 27
    (3) Setiap Orang dengan sengaja dan tanpa hak mendistribusikan dan/atau mentransmisikan dan/atau membuat dapat diaksesnya Informasi Elektronik dan/atau Dokumen Elektronik yang memiliki muatan penghinaan dan/atau pencemaran nama baik.

    Pasal 45
    (1) Setiap Orang yang memenuhi unsur sebagaimana dimaksud dalam Pasal 27 ayat (1), ayat (2), ayat (3), atau ayat (4) dipidana dengan pidana penjara paling lama 6 (enam) tahun dan/atau denda paling banyak Rp1.000.000.000,00 (satu miliar rupiah).

    As you see Naughty, he isn’t indicted for being an atheist per se.

  9. Avatar
    Hutami Wiryorahardjo June 21, 2012

    I’d like to thank you for your support Atheist Ireland. As an Indonesian I am very sadden and embarrassed that religious intolerance in my country is getting worse and our government/the police did “nothing” and seemed like they’re actually support those “thugs” called FPI (radical muslim group) 🙁
    I hope will more senators from another countries follow Ireland to pressure Indonesian government.

    Again, thank you!