Posting risqué messages on Facebook could cost you a prospective job or even negatively impact your relationships (pending, of course, on the content you’re putting on your page). But for one Indonesian man, sharing a very basic fact about his personal beliefs and defending atheism has led to an attack by an angry mob and a potential jail sentence because his comments were considered anti-Islam.
The drama unfolded when 30-year-old Alexander An posted a small tidbit of information regarding his faith — that he’s an atheist. The civil servant, based in Pulau Punjung, Indonesia, wrote, “God doesn’t exist.” This brief comment led him to enter into a debate about religion with fellow users of the social network. What commenced as an online fight led to dozens of angry locals storming into An’s office to show their disdain for his anti-religion comments. After badly beating him, the Telegraph reports that they took him to police.
In America, where freedom of religion and speech are cornerstones, his Facebook comments wouldn’t be a problem. But in Indonesia, where blasphemy is a crime that carries up to a five-year prison sentence, making such proclamations is illegal. The Telegraph has more:
Under the Indonesian criminal code blasphemy is defined as publicly expressing feelings or taking some action that spreads hatred, abuse or taints a religion in a way it would cause someone to disbelieve any of the country’s six official religions.
“He is suspected of having blasphemed against Islam,” local police chief Chairul Aziz told AFP in an interview. ”The man told police investigators that if God really exists and has absolute power, why didn’t he prevent bad things from happening in this world.”
According to his Facebook profile, An was brought up Muslim, but had a change of heart. In addition to his vocal non-belief, AFP reports that he was also an administrator on a Facebook page promoting atheism; the page had 1,361 followers as of this afternoon. His postings have apparently been removed following his detainment.
Currently, An is said to be in protective custody.