Insult against religion not part of freedom of expression

Insult against religion not part of freedom of expression

(ANTARA/Irsan Mulyadi)

"The Muslims in Indonesia condemn those who insult the Prophet Muhammad."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The production of anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" by a small group of US citizens has hurt religious tolerance.

The short film has triggered a storm of protests by Muslims in at least 20 countries, causing several people to be injured. Lives have also been lost, including that of Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, as part of the protests.

The US ambassador and three other embassy staff were killed in a rocket attack at the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the attack that led to the death of the US ambassador and at the same time, he also strongly disapproved of the anti-Muslim film that led to the incident.

"The President viewed the film uploaded on social media website YouTube and deplored the manner in which the movie insulted Muslims. He said it was the main reason why people got so angry, but he also pointed out that the US diplomat, who had nothing to do with the film, became an innocent victim," Presidential special aide for international relations, Teuku Faizasyah said in Jakarta, on September 13.

"Therefore, we express our regret over the two different, but related incidents," he further stated.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, also known as Sam Basile, 55, a US national and Coptic Christian, has been widely linked to the film in media reports.

In anticipation of Muslims` reactions to the film, Indonesian chief security minister Djoko Suyanto earlier asked the communication and informatics ministry to take action in connection with the film, which has already been banned in several countries.

Following complaints over the film, excerpts of which were uploaded on YouTube, owned by Google, the internet giant has barred access to the video in Egypt, Libya, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia, while the Afghanistan government has restricted access to YouTube, Aljazeera.com reported.

The blocking of the film on YouTube for Indonesian viewers, however, did not prevent several Muslim organizations from expressing their protest and anger across the country.

On Monday (Sept 17), hundreds of people from eight Muslim organizations in Jakarta held a demonstration in front of the US Embassy. It was the second protest directed against the embassy after the first one on Friday (Sept 14).

Among the protesters were members of Islamic Defender Front (FPI), the Indonesian Muslims Front (FUI), Islamic Defender Troop and Islamic Reform Movement.

They burnt US flags and chanted "America, go to hell". They also resorted to stone-throwing as the police fired teargas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators, gathered near the US embassy despite heavy presence of security officers. As a result of the violence, seven police officers and several protestors sustained injuries.

"The Muslims in Indonesia condemn those who insult the Prophet Muhammad. We condemn the American who made the film that insults Islam," said Abdul Bakar, one of the speakers at the rally.

The Jakarta Police arrested four demonstrators for carrying weapons during the rally.

"The weapons seized include catapults, marbles and Molotov cocktails," said Brigadier General Suhardi Alius, the Deputy Chief of the Jakarta Police, in front of the US embassy in Central Jakarta.

The demonstrators finally dispersed peacefully.

Speaking about the protest in front of the US embassy, National Police Chief General Timur Pradopo warned demonstrators against engaging in violent activities and violating the law.

"We once again affirm that, while we respect demonstrations because they are permissible by law, we will crack down on those violating the law," he said at the Parliament Building.

Similar rallies against the film were also staged in several other Indonesian cities such as Kendari in South Sulawesi and Dumai in the Riau Province.

"It`s clear that the motive of producing the film is to insult the Prophet Muhammad and Muslims all over the world. It cannot be tolerated and must be fought," said Zainuddin, one of the leaders of the rally in Kendari, last Saturday.

Syaiful Azhar, a rally coordinator in Dumai, said "We, the Muslims in Dumai, reject and strongly condemn the screening of the film that clearly insults the Muslim community worldwide by slandering the Prophet Muhammad."

Another condemnation came from Indonesia`s delegation at the 33rd meeting of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) being held in Senggigi, West Nusa Tenggara Province, on Tuesday.

The head of the Indonesian parliamentary delegation, Budi Santoso, expressed concern over the controversial film at the AIPA plenary session.

"The film is blasphemous and has insulted Islam under the pretext of freedom of speech," Budi said, adding that it was produced by a US national. However, he urged demonstrators to stage protests against the anti-Islam film peacefully.

Earlier in Jakarta, Deputy Chairman of the People`s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Lukman Hakim Saifuddin urged Indonesian Muslims to not allow themselves be provoked to participate in anarchy or destructive actions because they could be counter-productive.

The film, which insults Islam, must be brought to court, he had demanded last Saturday.

Chairman of Muhammadiyah Muslim organization Din Syamsuddin shared Saifuddin`s view and urged Muslim lawyers to bring the case to the International Court.

Indonesian Ambassador to the United States, Dino Patti Djalal went to the White House and the US State Department in Washington DC on Monday, to convey the message that the film is very offensive and slanderous against Muslims because it insults the Prophet Muhammad.

On behalf of Indonesia, he also urged the U.S. government to immediately take a firm and clear stand on the sensitive issue that was considered by Muslims to be blasphemous.

"We expressed the Indonesian government`s view on the anti-Islam video produced in California. The video is very offensive and has hurt Muslims because Prophet Muhammad is

sacred to Muslims and should not to be mocked," Djalal said after meeting with the officials at the White House and the State Department.

"The video has disturbed our common efforts to create a world that is tolerant to religions," Ambassador Djalal added.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, on Monday, said that there is no justification to produce an anti-Islam film on the pretext of freedom of speech because freedom of speech is not granted without limitations. In fact, it should also include moral and security considerations.

"We are very disturbed and could not accept the film, but we hope our concerns and protests could be demonstrated properly and in an orderly manner to show the world that we are a law-abiding nation," the minister said.

Natalegawa reminded that the film did not reflect the position of a certain country or government, so views should be expressed measurably.

He stated further that the government would tighten security measures and urge protestors to express their protests democratically and in an orderly manner.

He also promised that Indonesia would bring the issue to the UN forum in the UN Headquarters in New York.

Speaking at the national congress of the biggest Muslim organization in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), in Cirebon, West Java, on Monday, President Yudhoyono called on international organizations to establish protocols against insults towards religious beliefs.

"The protocol is important to prevent conflicts such as the ones witnessed recently (protests in several countries against the anti-Islam movie `Innocence of Muslim`)," said the President.

Yudhoyono expressed condemnation against the anti-Islam movie. He added that insulting religious beliefs is not part of the freedom of expression.

"In Indonesia, freedom of expression is mentioned in Article 29. However, the freedom itself is not absolute, meaning that there are limitations when it is related to morality and public order," said the President. (T.F001/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

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