Indonesian gays threatened with imprisonment for blasphemy

Published: May 30, 2010

Indonesian gays threatened with imprisonment for blasphemy

Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world, about 230 million, with about half residing on Java and the rest spread across about 17,500 islands. It is predominantly Muslim (about 86%), but the constitution also allows religious freedom, which is defined as the freedom of worship in Islam and five additional religions: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

The Islam practiced in Indonesia is generally less strident than that practiced in the Middle East. Officially secular (other than in the province of Aceh), the laws do not forbid homosexuality and there is a level of tolerance and even limited visibility. However, there are conservative factions within the nation’s Muslim population who long to remake Indonesia as a Muslim state and to administer Shari’a law.

Additionally, Indonesia has a blasphemy law which prohibits alternative interpretations of the six recognized religions. Although this law is currently being challenged in the Constitutional Court, it is being fiercely defended by the Religion Minister.

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