We haven’t heard much from Alexander Aan since he “blasphemed” on a Facebook group for the Minang Atheists and stated that God didn’t exist. The authorities in Indonesia took him into custody and he faces up to five years in prison for speaking the truth.
Several groups have tried to step up in his defense, to no avail…
The newly-formed Malaysian Atheists put out this support statement/open letter:
We declare that the continued incarceration of Alexander Aan and the threat of bringing the force of a blasphemy law upon this person for the crime of expressing a disbelief in the religion of Islam to be an unacceptable violation of his freedom of expression as well as his freedom of belief.
We hope you, as the leader/representative of Indonesia, a country that is quickly developing into one of the most successful nations in the world, will take steps leading to concrete action that will show the world that Indonesia has truly become a developed and civilised country where a person may be free to believe and disbelieve as they please as well as the freedom to express their opinion without the fear of incarceration, violence, and any other repercussions that would impede a person’s right to speak freely.
We suggest the immediate actions as follows:
1. Dismiss any and all charges of blasphemy against Alexander.
2. To charge his assailants in the court of law for violent behaviour.
An Indonesian atheist who was detained after declaring God did not exist on Facebook was considering abandoning his lack of religious faith and embracing Islam, police said Monday.
‘His parents came and told us that he wanted to repent,’ Dharmasraya police chief Chairul Aziz said by telephone.
First of all, it seems obvious that Aan may have said something to that extent to get the authorities off his back. He doesn’t have to mean it. He just doesn’t have any other choice, and it’s not in his best interests to stand by his convictions.
Second, even if he repented, the charges would still proceed (blasphemy charges don’t get overturned because you suddenly, magically “found god”).
So what is there to do at this point? There’s a petition you can sign, though it may not do anything. There’s a Facebook group here and here, though those are often a dime-a-dozen. But I’m not saying that to be dismissive. Each of those things may not be helpful by themselves, but together, they raise awareness of the issue and bring Aan’s story to a wider audience.
Alonzo Fyfe offers a solution along those lines, lest the entire story be forgotten:
Has anything been done to identify, arrest, and convict those who are guilty of assault against Mr. Aan? Or is the message being spread throughout Indonesia that acts of violence against theists are acceptable and shall not be punished?
We should be demanding that action be taken of those guilty of assaulting Aan, at the very least to establish a precedent and to give a warning, for the sake of all atheists, that these forms of violent response to atheist beliefs are to be shunned.…
Finally, Atheist Alliance International has launched an appeal in Aan’s defense and they’re also collecting money to “help pay for Aan’s legal costs and to support the Aan family’s living expenses while he is in jail.”
Whatever you do, don’t ignore this story. Keep him in your thoughts and let that inspire you to take some sort of action.