Indonesia’s religious police use the Internet to harass critics

Indonesia’s top religious police have used social media to harass those who criticise the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

The country’s blasphemy law is aimed at punishing the “false accusation” of a Muslim prophet.

In a statement on Monday, the Directorate for Religious Affairs said it was cracking down on “false accusations” that could lead to the prosecution of people for blasphemy.

The crackdown comes amid a growing concern that the blasphemy law could become a tool for radicalisation.

A report released in March by the Indonesia Human Rights Commission (IUHRC) said more than 100 people have been charged under the law since it was enacted in 2015.

The law requires people to wear a black face cover if they publicly utter the name of a “foreign or non-Indonesian religious figure” or a “Christian figure”.

Critics say it violates the countrys religious freedoms, as well as religious sensitivities.

It has been criticised by human rights groups as discriminatory, and the Indonesian government has said it is only targeting people who make “false allegations” of “religious or nationalistic character”.

The IUHRC said it had documented “a broad-scale use of the Internet” against critics, including online petitions, online discussions, and even social media posts.

Its report, which is being circulated among rights groups and the international community, said that a group of activists had received death threats, including one threatening to blow up a police station.

It also claimed that one activist had been harassed online.

Critics of the blasphemy bill argue that it has become an instrument for the Islamic State (IS) group, and that it could be used to silence those who criticize it.

The Indonesian government is not the only country grappling with the fallout of the law.

In the Philippines, the Philippines Catholic Bishops Conference said it has received calls for the arrest of people who support the blasphemy act.

In an emailed statement, it said it “is deeply concerned” about the law and has “received multiple calls for arrest” from religious leaders.

A separate report released by the IUHRRC in March found that the number of people charged under Indonesia’s blasphemy act had increased by more than 80 per cent between 2016 and 2017, as many people who were not charged under a previous law were now charged.

In the Philippines last year, the government arrested more than 1,000 people, including prominent politicians, journalists and activists.

Indonesia’s Catholic bishops also condemned the crackdown on freedom of expression, but said they were hopeful the legislation would be amended to make it more effective.

“The Church does not tolerate and will not tolerate any form of persecution of believers or others for exercising their right to freedom of conscience,” the bishops said in a statement.

According to the Indonesian embassy in Manila, it had received 1,300 calls for help to protect people from blasphemy in Indonesia since the law was enacted.