September 21, 2023
JAKARTA – A district court in South Sumatra has sentenced a woman to two years in prison after she recited an Islamic prayer before eating pork in a viral TikTok video that caused outrage.
Lina Mukherjee, 33, was found guilty of “spreading information aimed at inciting hatred against religious individuals and specific groups” at a court on Tuesday in Palembang, as reported by AFP.
Lina was reported to the authorities in March for the video that amassed millions of views, in which she uttered a Muslim prayer that translates to “in the name of God”, before consuming crispy pork skin.
Eating pork is forbidden in Islam, which is the majority religion of the country.
Lina identifies as a Muslim and her actions were condemned by conservative groups, as well as the most senior Muslim clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), which issued a ruling calling the video blasphemous.
She was also fined Rp 250 million (US$16,200) and her prison term will be extended by three months if it is not paid.
Police in South Sumatra named Lina a suspect after consulting with language experts and Muslim clerics from the MUI.
A Muslim cleric in Palembang identified as M. Syarif Hidayat filed a police report earlier this week over Lina’s pork-eating video. Syarif complained that as a Muslim herself, Lina should not promote the habit of eating pork.
In the video, which was uploaded on TikTok on March 9 and has been viewed more than 6.8 million times, Lina opens by claiming that by eating pork she is violating the basic tenets of Islam.
“Bismillah, by the way, guys, it seems I’ll be removed from my family identity card. I am very curious about this pork skin, and with this, I am violating Islam’s six basic principles,” Lina says in the video.
After the trial, Lina told reporters that she was surprised at the verdict, Reuters reported.
This was the latest in a series of blasphemy cases in the country. Last year police arrested six people on charges of blasphemy over a bar chain’s free alcohol promotion for patrons named Mohammed.
Rights groups have long campaigned against the law that they say is frequently misused to target religious minorities.
Andreas Harsono, a senior Human Rights Watch researcher, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that Lina’s sentencing was a threat to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. “The jail sentence says many things that are going wrong with Indonesia; it’s becoming an intolerant predominantly Muslim country,” he said.
Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said Lina’s conviction was “not surprising” despite the fact that the government had promised to protect freedom of speech and freedom of expression of all citizens.
“The blasphemy articles have long been abused to target minority groups and dissenters,” he said in a statement. “This contravenes Indonesia’s international obligations in relation to respect and protection for freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, freedom of opinion and expression.”