Indonesia is calling on the UN’s member states to adopt a legally binding instrument to ban blasphemy against religious symbols and to promote dialogue between different faiths, civilizations and cultures.
Speaking before hundreds of world leaders at the UN General Assembly, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said such an instrument was needed to prevent incitements to violence based on religion.
“This instrument, a product of international consensus, shall serve as a point of reference that the world community must comply with,” Yudhoyono said.
In addition, the President said that a dialogue was needed to build cooperation globally.
“These communities will become bulwarks for peace and they will make it difficult, if not impossible, for any kind of armed conflict to erupt,” Yudhoyono said.
The President said that the defamation of different religions has persisted, mentioning Innocence of Muslims, the US-made film ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad that has caused an international uproar and spawned riots that have claimed several lives.
The President said that the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights underlined that all people must observe morality and public order in exercising their freedom of expression.
“Freedom of expression is therefore not absolute,” Yudhoyono said in an address that principally
focused on global security.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that the President had opted to pursue a legal instrument since UN resolutions or other “soft” products such as international appeals had no significant power to prevent “blasphemous acts” from occurring, particularly when it came to legal measures at the national level.
“Efforts on this matter have been initiated by OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] member states, including Indonesia, since 2006. The countries always pushed for resolutions on anti-defamation against religion at every UN General Assembly session since then,” Marty told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the UN General Debate session on Tuesday.
The ineffectiveness of non-legally binding protocols was proven by recent anti-Islam actions such as the online circulation of Innocence of Muslims.
“Today, the President addressed that [issue], despite the repeated concerns voiced by numerous international forums, [blasphemous acts] keep reoccurring. Hence, a stronger instrument is absolutely necessary,” Marty said.
The foreign minister added that Indonesia would follow up the President’s calls by consolidating support from other nations to reach another concrete step in pursuing the proposed protocol.
However, Marty added, the gap between commitments at the international level and implementation at the national level persisted.
Marty’s comments on the difficulties in implementing the ban were reflected in the criticism voiced by human rights activists at home against Indonesia’s anti-blasphemy proposal at the UN.
According to the activists, Indonesia has little moral authority to campaign on the issue and Yudho-yono should first deal with discrimination against religious-minority groups in Indonesia that has been made possible in part due to the provisions of the 1965 Blasphemy Law.
The Blasphemy Law, according to their arguments, has been used by the government to punish minority groups and has been abused by mainstream Muslims to persecute those deemed deviant, such as the Ahmadiyah.
The Indonesian government has also been considering introducing a proposal to develop a legislative model kit that could be adopted by nations with different political and legal systems.
“We hope this kind of option could help accelerate the adoption of the international protocol on
anti-blasphemy acts,” Marty said.
During the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, in March, Indonesia introduced a similar legislative model kit to help states implement laws on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Marty also made an address during the UN’s high-level meeting on the rule of law at UN headquarters on Monday. In his speech, Marty reiterated the importance of reforming the UN Security Council.
After the morning session of the first day of Tuesday’s general debate (New York time), Yudhoyono is slated to join UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to jointly chair the first meeting of the UN High-level Panel on Post-2015 MDGs Development Agenda.
On Wednesday, the President is slated to have bilateral meetings with Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.