In a recent verdict that has sparked international attention, a Muslim woman named Lina Lutfiawati, also known as Lina Mukherjee on social media has been sentenced to a two-year prison term under Indonesia's blasphemy law. This decision comes in response to a video she shared on TikTok during her visit to Bali. In the video, she says Bismillah - an Islamic prayer before trying pork, a forbidden food in Islam.
Lina Mukherjee, aged 33, faced her trial in the Palembang district court on Sumatra island. She was found guilty of "spreading information aimed at inciting hatred against religious individuals and specific groups," as stated in court documents. Alongside her prison sentence, the court imposed a substantial fine of $16,245 (250,000,000 Indonesian rupiah), a considerable sum considering Indonesia's average annual per capita income of approximately $4,300. The court further warned that her jail term could be extended by three months if the fine remains unpaid.
Following the trial, Lina Mukherjee expressed her shock at the severity of the sentence. She stated, "I know I was wrong, but I really did not expect this punishment," hinting at the possibility of filing an appeal.
Indonesia, as the world's largest Muslim-majority nation with 231 million Muslims, has witnessed a growing trend of religious conservatism. Human rights groups have raised concerns that blasphemy laws are increasingly being used to target religious minorities and individuals perceived as insulting Islam.
Pork is prohibited in Islam, and the act of consuming it remains a taboo among most Indonesian Muslims. However, it is a common dietary choice among millions of non-Muslims in the country, including the ethnic Chinese community and residents of Bali, a Hindu-majority island.
Lina Mukherjee, who identifies as Muslim, boasts a substantial social media following of over 2 million. She is renowned for her lifestyle and food-related content, which often showcases her sampling various dishes. The contentious TikTok video, posted in March, depicted her reciting "Bismillah" (In the name of Allah) before trying crispy pork skin while dining in Bali.
"Bismillah" is a significant and frequently used phrase in Islam, typically uttered by Muslims before eating. The video garnered millions of views but faced condemnation from religious groups, including the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country's top Muslim clerical body, which labeled it as "blasphemous."
A public complaint led to police investigations and ultimately, Mukherjee's prosecution. Throughout the trial, images and videos of her frequently showed her in tears and accompanied by a heightened security presence.
Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, voiced his concerns about the situation. He stated, "She's done nothing wrong, but it says a lot about Indonesia... how a self-proclaimed moderate Muslim country is becoming a radicalized Muslim nation." Harsono also highlighted the expansion of the blasphemy chapter in Indonesia's criminal code, which now comprises six articles, as a setback to religious freedom and belief protection.
One of Indonesia's most prominent blasphemy cases involved Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian politician who served as Jakarta's first non-Muslim governor in five decades. Ahok faced a blasphemy trial in 2017 after referencing a Quranic verse during his 2016 re-election campaign. He was sentenced to two years in prison, despite issuing a public apology.
Link of the controversial video: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/J9KiWemAzBU
Reports and articles published on rationalists.net, including this article, can be reproduced, published, or posted on social media with the byline "Rationalist International"