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Former Indonesian president's daughter sorry after blasphemy outrage over poem
Sydney Morning Herald - April 4, 2018
In the poem, read at Indonesia's Fashion Week, Sukmawati – sister of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri – is alleged to have denigrated the adzan, or call to prayer, and suggested a traditional Indonesian hair bun is prettier than the full-faced veil worn by strict Muslims.
The reading of the poem titled "Mother Indonesia" has prompted calls for a rally on Friday from the hardline GNPF Ulama, a conservative Muslim organisation, who declared "the call of Jihad is back" and urged people to support police in the "arrest, trial and jail Sukmawati, the religious blasphemer".
The outrage generated by Sukmawati's poem is another sign that conservative Muslims in Indonesia plan to flex their political muscles ahead of the 2019 elections.
GNPF Ulama was one of the key religious organisations involved in the huge rallies against the Christian former governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, who was jailed for blasphemy in May 2017.
A lawyer named Denny Andrian Kusdayat and the East Java branch of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a usually moderate Muslim organisation, both reported Sukmawati Sukarnoputri to police after she read the poem last week.
According to local media, Denny believed Sukmawati insulted Islam because the word "Allah" is mentioned in the call to prayer.
Sukmawati, who had already conferred with a senior official from the Ulama Council – a body of clerics who issue religious edicts – delivered her apology on Wednesday afternoon.
"From the bottom of my heart I extend an apology to all Muslims of Indonesia, especially those who feel offended by the poem," Sukmawati said with tears in her eyes during a press conference.
However another two organisations – the Indonesian Ulema Defence Team (TPUI) and the Indonesian Islamic Student Movement (GMII) – reported Sukmawati to Indonesian Police on Wednesday, claiming to have been insulted by the poem and signalling her apology may not have been enough.
University of NSW lecturer Melissa Crouch, an expert in Indonesia's blasphemy laws, said Sukmawati had had previous run-ins with conservative Muslim group the Islamic Defenders front and "this case has political undertones to it".
"People have been moved by the Ahok conviction to use the blasphemy laws to target their poetical opponents," she said.
The general secretary of the Association of Indonesian Sharia Lawyers, Irfan Fahmi, said in his personal opinion "we must first find out if there is intention of her to blaspheme".
"In the criminal code, an action should have an intention in order to be categorised as a criminal act. Perception is not an intention," he said. "So if she thinks the sound from the call of prayer is less beautiful... it is her perception."
He predicted Sukmawati would not face court over the matter and said the fact that she was speaking at a fashion event, not a political rally, would also help her.
Nevertheless, "maybe there are people who will make a new issue out of Sukmawati's case [ahead of the 2019 election]."
Police in Jakarta may summon Sukmawati to question her about the matter, but it could be some weeks before she finds out if she is charged or if the matter is dropped.