Rights watchdog warns Al Zaytun blasphemy case being used for political gain

Kompas.com – July 21, 2023
Panji Gumilang in Jakarta when fulfilling police summons for questioning – July 3, 2023 (Kompas)

Singgih Wiryono, Jakarta – Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) is advising the public to be careful about forming hasty opinions ahead of a political year, including over the controversy surrounding the Al Zaytun Islamic boarding school (pesantren) and its leader Panji Gumilang.

Imparsial human rights program coordinator Annisa Yudha Apriliasari believes that the case is being manipulated by politicians. Moreover the handling of the blasphemy case directed at Gumilang cannot be separated from social pressure.

"We can see from the APH's (law enforcement agencies) handling of several cases, in this context (the Al Zaytun case), the police, yes, because they are confronting it directly on the ground, when for example protests or opposition is happening, they are still tend to be bias towards favoritism and majority-ism", said Apriliasari during a public discussion on Thursday July 20.

According to Apriliasari, issues related to religion are the most easily manipulated by politicians to gain power. In the Al Zaytun case for example, she said, this was apparent from the start of the investigation, which she said began with mass mobilisations.

"In cases of blasphemy, what occurs for example is mass pressure and this pressure is mass mobilisation", she said.

"The masses exert pressure, then the APH becomes permissive to this pressure, then the government also in fact uses it as a political agenda to manipulate the issue", said Apriliasari.

Therefore, she is advising the public to focus on sorting through the information and to be careful about forming opinions.

The Al Zaytun boarding school case became the focus of public attention because it has unusual methods of worship.

The first issue emerged after a video circulated on social media showing mixed rows of men and women during Idul Fitri mass prayers in April. Moreover a woman was giving a sermon in front of a gathering of male worshipers.

The controversy then continued following statements by Al Zaytun leader Gumilang who attracted attention because he said that women can be the khatib (preacher) at Friday prayers.

In addition to this, Gumilang said that the Islamic holy book, the Al Quran, is the words of the prophet Muhammad, not the words of God.

The other issue that emerged was that Gumilang was alleged to have committed various crimes ranging from immoral acts, rape through to money laundering.

Most recently, Gumilang was reported to the National Police Criminal Investigations Directorate (Bareskrim) for alleged blasphemy. The report has been raised to the criminal investigation stage over alleged hate speech.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Kasus Al Zaytun, Imparsial Ingatkan Masyarakat Hati-hati Penggiringan Opini".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2023/07/20/22373121/kasus-al-zaytun-imparsial-ingatkan-masyarakat-hati-hati-penggiringan-opini