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2012-08-26

Why religion and state must never be mixed - Alexander Aan got two and half years in jail for being an atheist

In Indonesia in June, the atheist Alexander Aan was beaten up by a mob and then sentenced to jail for two and half years. His crime? Writing on a Facebook group that God does not exist.


Many international groups have protested, including Amnesty International (designating Alexander a prisoner of conscience), Human Rights Watch and Atheist Alliance International, but nothing has helped so far. He was also beaten in jail by Muslim inmates, and has subsequently converted to Islam again, most probably under threats of further violence.

If you want to help Alexander, click here for more information.

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His jailing happened even though Indonesia is not actually a Muslim state, like e.g. Malaysia is. The Indonesian constitution provides "all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief", but states that "the nation is based upon belief in one supreme God."

The Ministry of Religious Affairs extends official status to six faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. Note that atheism is not on the list, which makes it possible to jail people for not believing in any deity.

Absurd things like this illustrate why it's so important to separate state and religion.

And finally here's an excerpt from Alexander Aan's Wikipedia page:
The Islamic Society Forum stated that the potential five-year sentence was not enough, and that Alexander should be executed: "What he has done cannot be tolerated... it is important to prevent this group from spreading atheism in this country." The atheist Facebook group which he founded saw a surge in membership, but most of these were against atheists; postings included calls for atheists to be beheaded and calling them cowards.
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