Indonesian pastor faces blasphemy charge over remarks about the Quran

An Indonesian pastor has been jailed and charged with blasphemy for his remarks about the Quran. | Pixabay/Pexels

A Protestant pastor in Indonesia is facing a blasphemy charge over his remarks about the Quran during his conversation with a taxi driver.

Reverend Abraham Ben Moses, 52, was arrested after he was seen in a video in which he quoted the Quran on marriage and told the taxi driver that the Islamic prophet Muhammad was inconsistent in his teachings.

According to UCA News, the pastor was also heard in the video asking the taxi driver to convert to Christianity.

The pastor has been detained at a Jakarta police station for more than a week after he was arrested in his home in Tangerang, Banten province.

"We are still questioning him and witnesses and gathering evidence. He could face more than five years imprisonment," Ariwibawa Anggakusuma, a spokesman for the police cybercrime unit, told UCA News.

The complaint against Moses was reportedly filed on Dec. 8 by members of Indonesia's second-largest Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah.

Pedri Kasman, a member of the group, said that Moses' remarks in the video hurt the feelings of Muslims and it could damage interreligious harmony in the country.

"We want police to conduct a fair legal process. This is important because we do not want Muslims to overreact in this case," he said.

Theophilus Bela, a former chairman of the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum, said that Moses' case was "the first one" involving a Christian cleric. He noted that the Protestant church has already provided Moses with a lawyer.

There have been at least 106 people who were prosecuted and convicted under Indonesia's blasphemy laws between 2005 and 2014.

In a 2014 report, Amnesty International contended that the nation's blasphemy laws are often used against individuals belonging to minority religions, including those who adhere to interpretations of Islam that deviate from the mainstream form of the religion in Indonesia.

In May this year, former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was sentenced to two years in prison after he was found guilty of blasphemy for his remarks on a Quranic verse during a campaign speech in September last year.

During the legal proceedings, Purnama continued to run for governor alongside his deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat, but they lost against Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, who were supported by numerous Islamic group.

He has since been named as one of 100 Global Thinkers compiled by U.S. magazine Foreign Policy for his efforts in resisting the creeping fundamentalism in Indonesia.

"Sharp-tongued, of Chinese descent, and a practicing Protestant in the world's largest Muslim-majority country, Ahok did not fit the profile of a typical Indonesian politician," the magazine noted.