Indonesia’s top clerics issue fatwa against gays

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the most prominent Islamic clerical organization in the country, has issued a fatwa calling for the death penalty to be imposed for the crime of having gay sex.

The edict was issued earlier this month to “remind” the public that homosexuality is a “deviant sexual behavior” that the society should not tolerate, as it puts a “stain on the dignity of Indonesia.”

As Hasanuddin A.F., the head of the MUI’s fatwa commission, said, as quoted by the Jakarta Globe:

It doesn’t matter that they love each other…The law still prohibits it. In Islamic law, it’s a sexual act that must be heavily punished. It would be bad if the government allows same-sex marriage.

The fatwa is particularly worrisome given how influential MUI is in Indonesia, which is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. The organization was founded under Suharto’s New Order in 1975, and has since been the umbrella organization for Muslim clerics in the country. So when they tell believers in Indonesia that a certain group of people shouldn’t have the full protection of the law behind them, it carries quite a bit of weight. Prior fatwas issued by the MUI have been used to justify violence against the Ahmadiyah community, a sect of Islam branded as heretical by the MUI.

And given the already-high rate of violence against religious minorities in the country, the active incitement to religiously-motivated violence against the homosexuals, coming from the country’s most prominent religious body, has put Indonesia’s LGBT community on notice.

On paper, Indonesia is typically considered one of the world’s more progressive majority-Muslim countries. Its constitution officially grants its citizens freedom of religion (provided that you subscribe to one of the six religions recognized by the government) and, while same-sex marriage is prohibited, homosexuality is only officially criminalized in a few localities.

The country is also frequently held up as an example of how wrong critics of Islam are when they say that the religion is used to make life worse for those who don’t adhere to its principles. After all, only 16 percent of Indonesia’s Muslims believe that the death penalty should be assigned to apostates.

That’s low in comparison to, say, Egypt, where a 2013 Pew poll showed that 88% of Egyptian Muslims endorsed killing those who leave the faith, but it’s still awfully high. High enough to be cause for legitimate concern for Indonesians whose lifestyle doesn’t square with the one outlined for them by the country’s religious leaders.

And, apparently, high enough to make it politically risky to condemn theologically-justified calls to violence, as the Indonesian government has not yet come out against the MUI’s persecutory instruction.

Rainbow map of Indonesia, via Wikimedia Commons

Rainbow map of Indonesia, via Wikimedia Commons

Shame on them if they don’t. If they won’t stand up for sexual minorities in their own country on an issue as simple as “Should these people be alive?” then they deserve embarrassment on a global level.

It’s incumbent upon governments and ordinary citizens around the world to, in the face of edicts such as these, remind Indonesia that this isn’t how modern societies operate. When a religious body can openly advocate for the persecution and killing of a group of people, and expect to be taken seriously, it doesn’t prevent a “stain on the dignity” of their country; it creates one.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • BGirl Lil’ Shou

    Well if you leave in Jakarta or Bali some people there are probably not that close minded to LGBT community. But in rural areas people might talk things to them telling how disgusting they are and some might beat them up. It’s a sad fact and I leave in Indonesia. So I know quite much about the discrimination that happens here. We’ll see in the future in Jokowi’s leadership. I hope he can promote more human rights here

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  • Bob Hutton

    I wouldn’t harm sodomites but what they are doing is an abomination against nature. This is why the King James Bible calls it “abusing themselves with mankind” – 1st Cor 6 v 9-10.

  • 2karmanot


  • FLL

    Atheists are arrested in Indonesia:
    Only Turkey is secular among Muslim nations. Only Turkey. Turkey is a model for the rest of the Muslim world, the rest of the Muslim world which is a human rights disaster. Turkey now has an official atheist group in Istanbul. Turkey has had a secular government since World War I. Do you get it, readers of Western nations? Do you finally, finally get it?

  • FLL

    Flippin’ Jesus on a waffle. Karmanot, you’ve scooped everyone.

  • emjayay

    This one wasn’t worth abusing sick leave? Also: working on St. Patrick’s day? You’re supposed to be drunk already.

  • Indigo

    Bad for tourism.

  • Will have something up on it tomorrow. I’m still working a day job until April, so I can’t do rapid response yet!

  • nicho

    A going-away present for John.

  • emjayay

    C’mon, New Americablog. Get with it. Shock resigned at least an hour ago.

  • Hue-Man

    They’re just copying the California christianist lawyer who has proposed a ballot measure:

    “The People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

  • Well, if he’s not in court defending himself, Schock will have lots of time to soil more thongs this summer… The grifter is finally resigning.

  • caphillprof

    Disorganized religion is also a problem.

  • Never trust anyone asserts without proof or reason to know with absolute inerrancy what the supposed supreme super-deity of the entire universe wants, because all you’ll learn is this super-god hates exactly the same people as the one doing the claiming.

    I’m with DCInsider, too: I don’t have a problem with spirituality or religion in and of itself. It’s when a religion organizes that it almost always becomes a tool for evil and oppression. That’s when “Hey my super-god hates everybody I do” becomes “Our god hates everybody we do, so let’s go do something about it. Oh, and by the way, our god also hates these other people. And those ones. And those unbelievers over there…”

  • 2karmanot

    Take heart gentle readers, Sister Fatima Wraphead has declared a fatwawa against theThe Indonesian Ulema Council. They are to be buried alive in sequins and Aaron Schock’s used thongs.

  • Baal


  • dcinsider

    Organized religion is the disease. Islam is simply a symptom of the underlying corrosive affect that religion has upon this planet. No good has ever come of organized religion.

    I do not want to hear how this does not reflect Islam, because it does. However, as all know too well, Islam is not alone. Christians are just as bad, or worse.

    My tolerance of organized religion lessens with each day.

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