Atheist Group Launches Efforts to Help Jailed Facebook User in Indonesia

An international non-theist organization has launched efforts to help an Indonesian atheist who was imprisoned for writing on Facebook that he did not believe in God.

Atheist Alliance International is trying to help Alexander Aan, who was recently imprisoned for writing "God doesn't exist" on Facebook. Carlos Diaz, president of AAI, told The Christian Post that his organization learned of the incident from some of their contacts in Indonesia – the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

"Alex Aan's case highlights the fundamental principles of freedom of expression and freedom of conscience and the discrimination faced by atheists, particularly in Islamic countries," said Diaz.

"Freedom of expression should be of concern to all people, but it is particularly pertinent for atheists. No person can be free without the freedom to be religious or not as they choose, and to express their views on the topic of religion."

AAI has been spreading awareness about the plight of Aan, as well as setting up a donation drive so individuals can pay for Aan's legal fees as his case continues.

"We're pleased with the response we've received from our members and supporters – the donations to Alex Aan Legal/Support Fund, the media coverage of his case, [and] the messages of support that people have sent to us to pass on to Alex," said Diaz.

"I understand that Alex appreciates the efforts on his behalf and it's important that he knows he is not alone. Ultimately we'd like Alex to be freed and for this injustice to not happen to any other person, but we'll have to see what happens next."

After posting on Facebook a statement of disbelief, Aan was attacked by a mob in his hometown of Pulau Punjung and then arrested by authorities on the charge of blasphemy.

According to Canadian-based Voice of the Martyrs, the Indonesian government officially recognizes six religions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism and Protestantism. However, the nation has been known for its sporadic attacks on minority religious groups.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty says of Indonesia that "challenges to religious freedom in the nation are great."

"The Ahmadiyah, an offshoot of Islam, are a completely banned sect. Persecution against Christians remains a problem. The country grapples with the continued threat of terrorism as well as the implementation of Shariah law," reads an article on its website.

Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission released a statement in April calling for Indonesia to drop the case against Aan.

"What Alexander has done does not pose a threat to public order … It is also essential to emphasize that freedom of religion does not simply protect theistic beliefs but also non-theistic and atheistic beliefs," said the AHRC in a statement.

As part of AAI's efforts to help Aan, the organization launched a "God does not Exist" campaign wherein they urge people to post on Facebook "God does not exist" and on Twitter to post #goddoesnotexist. When asked by CP if such a campaign could alienate human rights activists who are religious, Diaz responded that he felt the campaign went beyond agreement with the statement.

"Freedom of expression and conscience is a basic human right. Even if people do not personally agree with the statement that 'God Does Not Exist' they should support Alex's right, indeed anyone's right, to make that statement," said Diaz.

"There is not much value in supporting freedom of expression if you only support people's right to express views you agree with."

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty did not return comments by press time.

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