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Indonesia’s Model Democracy

David Cameron in April:

Indonesia’s respect for democracy and minority religious groups should serve as an example for other Muslim nations, British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech to be delivered on Thursday.

In Jakarta, capital of the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Cameron will call on groups such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has a conservative vision of Islam, to look to Indonesia’s for tips on nation building following the Arab Spring that toppled longtime Middle Eastern autocrats.

“What Indonesia is showing is that it is possible to develop a democracy and a modern economy that neither compromises people’s security nor their ability to practise their religion,” Cameron will say, according to an advance text of his speech.

“This has huge implications for others seeking the same fundamental freedoms in places like Egypt, Iran and Syria.”

The reality:

An Indonesian man who posted his atheist views on Facebook has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison after being found guilty of “deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity”. He was also fined the equivalent of 10,000 US dollars.

As we reported on this blog earlier this year, Alexander Aan was arrested in January in his home town of in his hometown of Pulau Punjung in western Sumatra, having posted “God doesn’t exist”on a Facebook page. He was also accused of posting cartoon strips deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.

In passing the sentence, the presiding judge Eka Prasetya Budi Dharma told the the Muaro Sijunjung district court in western Sumatra that Aan had “caused anxiety to the community and tarnished Islam”.

Prosecutors had sought a lengthier jail sentence for Aan, but in finding him guilty of inciting religious hatred, the court dropped two additional, less serious charges of blashphemy and persuading others to embrace atheism.

The New Humanist adds:

Ever since his arrest, Aan has received support from atheists and human rights activists around the world. The Atheist Alliance International has been collecting donations for a legal fund, and they are still urging people to contribute in the wake of Aan’s conviction. They are also providing contact details [PDF] that can be used to contact the Indonesian authorities to express concern about the case.

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