Subject: Blasphemy and the TNI

unpublished letter to the editor

The New York Times is to be commended for coverage of the recent Indonesia Constitutional Court's ruling upholding a discriminatory blasphemy law (4/19). This seemingly arcane development in a country that receives limited US media coverage reveals a worrying slippage of democracy in a nation that is of increasing importance.

The democratization of Indonesia since the 1998 overthrow of the dictator Suharto, which earlier had been impressive, is increasingly fitful. Increasingly in recent years Islamic fundamentalists such as the Islamic Defenders Front have menaced less fundamentalist Islamic groups and non-Muslims such as Ambonese and other Christian groups. They derive support from the Indonesian military which introduced them to post-tsunami Aceh where they cast a pall on relief operations.

The Indonesian military played a key role in the organization of another militiant Islamist thug organization, the Laskar Jihad, several years ago. Moreover, the Indonesian military itself poses grave threats to the democratization process in Indonesia, operating outside of the State budget process and remaining notoriously immune from judicial accountability for past and on-going human rights abuse.

In this instance, as in the broader issue of security force accountability, the Indonesian courts have failed to protect democratic space in Indonesia.

Edmund McWilliams 450 Jicarilla Road White Oaks, New Mexico 88301

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