by: Okky Madasari

For so long, I believed that courage was the only moral value that everybody should learn, adopt, apply in life. For so long, I believed that with bravery alone we could stand up against oppression and take action to defend public interests in the name of humanity, democracy, and just society.

Until what happened to former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or Ahok, who was accused of blasphemy and went to jail for that, profoundly affected me personally, terrifying the hell out of me that I know I would never feel the same comfort anymore.

The fear is real. What has been on my mind since Ahok was jailed is that it’s not impossible for me, for anybody else, to end up having the same fate as the former Jakarta governor. Just read the blasphemy article of Indonesia’s law and we will notice articles that can be intrepreted or bent to serve the interests of the ruling group.

And of course the truth will always belong to the loudest crowd that saying you or anybody elses have done blasphemy.

To make a point that it can happen randomly to anyone else anywhere, the same real incidents happened again and again to real people after Ahok was sentenced.

Just several months ago, for instance, Meiliana, a woman who lives in Medan, was found guilty of blasphemy, and  punished to 18 months in jail just because she complained about the sound of azan (a call for prayer from mosque) as being too loud.

Just to remind you, hundreds of people – many of them did not appear in the media – have been jailed or even executed to death in the last decades for blasphemy since a writer known as his pseudonym  Kipandjikusmin was accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad in his short story in late 60s. It gained momentum when novelist and journalist Arswendo Atmowilo was jailed after he published a popular survey in a tabloid he managed in 1990 that put Muhammad way below Suharto’s and his own popularity.  

All of those blasphemy cases are very close to us, there is no exact line what we can and can’t do, leaving us alone to guess and decide. Once there is people or a group don’t like what we say or what we do and accuse us for blasphemy, there will be no way out. We will go to jail, destroying our life and career. No one can help and we will face everything by ourselves, leaving behind our families, our children, or lives as we know it.

If Ahok, with all his power, popularity and supports, could not escape from the blasphemy trap, what can we expect for the rest of us?

The second incident that keeps haunting me until today is the attack of KPK’s investigator Novel Baswedan. Just imagine: we walked in the dawn after just finished our subuh prayer at the mosque, and suddenly, somebody attacked us by throwing accid to our face. Honest and brave Novel had to be long medicated and underwent heavy surgery, losing one of his eyes in the process.

Just like Ahok, this is a warning that you will only be suffered if you have guts to fight injustices.

And the irony is that even with all the Indonesian police’s international image as terrorist buster, yet until today they couldn’t even come close to explain what happen, let alone catch the actors behind of the attack, publicly giving exuses of inadequate witnesses.

We can be angry – and we  have to – and stage a protest, saying that we can neither trust the police nor government anymore, but the damages and injustices have been done to Novel. Sure, losing one of his eyes doesn’t make Novel loss his courage and he continues his duty at KPK, doing what he has been doing before, but it’s not the same anymore.

And again the damage was done. Not everybody can bear the same mentality of Novel, at least not me. And the worst thing from all of it, we can’t rely on police, losing our hope to government and the state. We can’t rely on anybody to give us security, and even when the damage has been done, we can’t even ask for justice.

We have agreed to give up part of our freedom and rights to these institutions exactly because we want to have protection and avoid what happened to these victims of abritrary atacks in the first place – an anarchy or a situation of homo homini lupus, or jungle law.  

And just recently, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Arabian consulat in Istanbul, again gave me a minor depression, leading me to a state of fearness.

It’s in the world of 2018 when transparency and freedom become the main backbone of our civilization, a respected, critical and brave journalist who has an international career had been butchered alive inside the consulat.

And for what? Just because he has a gut to express his opinion and do his job to unveil injustices inside a monarchy which should have been dissolved long time ago if not for the US – the self-proclaimed leaders of the free world and forefront champion of democracy, human rights and transparency.

And for some time under the watch of the whole world Saudi Arabian monarch still played around, traying to cheat by first denying the death of Khashoggi inside its consulat, and then admitting the death but by making up scenario that he died from a brawl.

No one in their sane mind can buy this scenario, but still we have reason to fear that the monarchs can get away with the murder with its money and bargaining power amid US and Turkey’s self-interests.

And if the Saudi monarch can get away with this man-slaughter then we have a real reason to fear that even in 2018 impunity and random killings and attacks is still ever present – in dictatorianship and democracy alike.

Ahok case shows that the justice (or injustice?) system can jail those who have the gut to say the right thing under the pressure of the majority, employing the irrelevant and outdated law inherited from the Dutch colonial, a law that disregards the human rights entirely.  Novel shows the the incapability or lack intention of the state to protect or find justice to a hard-working, honest and brave law enforcer. While Khashoggi was murdered inside his own country’s consulat, a place that should be a safe heaven for a citizen like him.

Ahok, Novel and Khashoggi – just like Munir, Wiji Thukul and many others before them – should be our heroes and should be worship across the world. If people like them are silenced without us – people with a little sanity – doing our part to voice protest and defend them then we help insanity, impunity and killings to take over, and we have a real fear we are the next.

If such impunity scares out of young generation to aspire to be like them, and hence we have less and less people with guts to fight for the right thing we have a darker world ahead.      ***


Written in October 2018


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