(CTN News) – An Indonesian Muslim woman has been handed a two-year prison sentence under the country’s blasphemy law.
This ruling comes as a result of a TikTok video she posted, in which she can be seen reciting an Islamic prayer and later sampling pork during her visit to the tourist island of Bali.
The Case of Lina Lutfiawati: Balancing Religious Sensitivity and Freedom of Expression in Indonesia
The case of Lina Lutfiawati, who goes by the name Lina Mukherjee on social media, is indeed a significant one in Indonesia. Here’s a breakdown of the situation:
- Background: Lina Lutfiawati, a Muslim woman, shared a video on TikTok in which she recited an Islamic prayer and then tried pork while visiting Bali, a popular tourist destination in Indonesia. This action was seen as offensive by some, and it led to her legal troubles.
- Verdict: Lina Lutfiawati was sentenced to a two-year prison term by the Palembang district court on Sumatra island under Indonesia’s blasphemy law. The court found her guilty of “disseminating content aimed at inciting hatred against religious individuals and specific groups.” Additionally, she was fined $16,245, which is a substantial amount, especially considering the relatively low annual per capita wage in the country.
- Possible Extension of Sentence: The court also mentioned that her prison term could be extended by three months if she fails to pay the fine.
- Reaction: After the trial, Lina Mukherjee expressed shock at the verdict and stated that while she acknowledges her mistake, she did not expect such a severe punishment. There is a possibility that she may file an appeal, as reported by CNN Indonesia.
It’s worth noting that blasphemy laws can vary widely from one country to another, and they often intersect with issues of religious sensitivity and freedom of expression.
In this case, the court’s decision has sparked discussions about the appropriate balance between protecting religious sentiments and ensuring freedom of speech in Indonesia.
Indonesia’s Complex Landscape: Religious Conservatism, Blasphemy Laws, and Cultural Diversity
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, with 231 million people, where at least 93% of its adult population identifies as Muslim, has witnessed a surge in religious conservatism in recent years.
Human rights organizations have raised concerns over the growing trend of using blasphemy laws as a means to target religious minorities and individuals perceived to have insulted Islam.
Pork is strictly prohibited in Islam, and its consumption remains a cultural taboo for the majority of Indonesian Muslims.
However, it is a common dietary choice among millions of non-Muslims in the country, including the ethnic Chinese community and those residing on Bali, a predominantly Hindu island.
Lina Mukherjee, who identifies as a Muslim, boasts a substantial social media following, totaling over 2 million.
Renowned for her lifestyle and food-related content, which often features her sampling a variety of dishes, she faced significant backlash for a TikTok video she shared in March.
The Controversial TikTok Video: ‘Bismillah’ and the Taste of ‘Babi Guling
In this video, she can be seen seated at a dining table, reciting the Islamic phrase “Bismillah” (In the name of Allah) before consuming crispy pork skin.
“Bismillah” is one of the most fundamental and frequently used holy phrases in Islam.
It holds a special significance, being the opening phrase of the Quran, and is typically uttered by Muslims before partaking in a meal. It also serves as a common expression in various contexts.
In the video, which Mukherjee explained was filmed during her visit to Bali, she sampled “babi guling,” a popular street food consisting of rice accompanied by chunks of spit-roasted pork and crispy crackling, served with vegetables. Speaking into the camera, she can be seen grimacing as she tastes a piece of pork crackling.
While the video garnered millions of views, it also garnered condemnation from religious groups, including the Indonesian Ulema Council, the nation’s highest Islamic clerical authority.
The council issued a ruling denouncing the video as “blasphemous.” Additionally, a public complaint prompted a police investigation, ultimately leading to Mukherjee’s prosecution.
Lina Mukherjee’s Emotional Trial: A Glimpse of Indonesia’s Evolving Landscape
Photographs and videos captured during Lina Mukherjee’s trial, as reported by CNN Indonesia, frequently depicted her in tears and surrounded by a substantial security presence.
Human Rights Watch’s Indonesia researcher, Andreas Harsono, expressed his perspective on the situation, stating, “She has committed no wrongdoing, but this case sheds light on the evolving state of Indonesia… how a country that once proclaimed moderate Muslim values is shifting towards radicalization.” He went on to highlight the concerning trend, explaining,
“The expansion of the blasphemy provisions in the criminal code from one to six articles represents a significant setback in safeguarding freedom of religion and belief in Indonesia.
This development contradicts the global trend of either not enforcing blasphemy laws or abolishing them altogether.”
One of Indonesia’s most prominent blasphemy cases involved Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian politician who served as Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor in half a century.
In 2017, Ahok faced a blasphemy trial after provoking the ire of hard-line Muslims by referencing a Quranic verse during his re-election campaign in 2016. Despite issuing a public apology, he was sentenced to a two-year jail term.