In what Amnesty International describes as "a serious setback for freedom of expression in Indonesia," Alexander Aan has been imprisoned for 30 months for posting "God doesn't exist" on Facebook, along with some "offensive" cartoons. Again with the cartoons! He was also fined an amount exceeding double Indonesia's average annual salary.
If you think this is just about atheism, think again. The same people who, according to the Guardian, are calling for Aan's beheading also protest every Sunday at Christian churches, yelling "Christians get out" and calling for all women not wearing jilbab to be hunted down. Even moderate Muslim groups are being attacked for the same reason. The New York Times reported that one man was stripped naked, beaten severely, and dragged through his village for being the wrong kind of Muslim.
The charge is "deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity," according to the sentencing judge. So it's not about atheism; it's about not being Muslim.
Alexander Aan is a pacifist, a government servant, and an atheist. He was beaten by a mob, arrested, beaten again in prison by Muslim inmates, and now sentenced and fined. It's a fair bet that once released -- if he survives prison -- another mob will come after him for "justice."
For the sake of all that is good and right, please sign this White House petition asking President Obama to intercede on behalf of a man whose only crime is expressing his thoughts out loud and to call upon the Indonesian government to free Alexander Aan. The petition requires 25,000 signatures before Aug. 16.
According to Amnesty International's press release, the organisation is of the view that "the charges and sentence are in contravention of Indonesia's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) particularly Article 18, which protects an individual's right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and Article 19, which guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression." Amnesty calls Aan a "prisoner of conscience" and has called for his immediate and unconditional release.
If we're to live in a world that has an organisation called the "United Nations"; if documents with such titles as "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" are to mean anything, ever; if we're to make any progress at all against arbitrary violence inflicted upon nonviolent people, we need to stop standing by while such injustices take place. As Paul Fidalgo said in his blog, if we can't move mountains for him, let's at least see if we can nudge a White House.
Have you signed the petition yet? No? Why on Earth not?