Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Indonesia Says Freedom of Expression Not Free Pass for Quran Desecration

Jayanty Nada Shofa
August 29, 2023 | 4:59 pm
Protestor Salwan Momika appears outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm, Thursday, July 20, 2023, where he plans to burn a copy of the Quran and the Iraqi flag. (Oscar Olsson/TT via AP)
Protestor Salwan Momika appears outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm, Thursday, July 20, 2023, where he plans to burn a copy of the Quran and the Iraqi flag. (Oscar Olsson/TT via AP)

Jakarta. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Tuesday freedom of expression should not give someone a free pass to discriminate against others based on religion following multiple Quran-burning incidents in Europe.

Retno made the statement at the Jakarta Plurilateral Dialogue which zeroed in on the need to respect other people’s faith. Retno drew the forum’s attention to the spate of Quran burnings in Sweden, saying that the incident was “only one example” of rising religious intolerance.

“Freedom of expression does not mean freedom to discriminate and hurt others. As such freedom of expression cannot be promoted at the expense of freedom from discrimination,” Retno said at the forum.

According to Retno, a “clear legal framework” is pivotal to combat religion-based discrimination. A case in point is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).


The international human rights treaty commits nations to prohibit by law propaganda on religious hatred. Indonesia, which is home to the world's largest Muslim population, already ratified the treaty. The same goes for Sweden.

“ICCPR requires states to prohibit by law advocacy of religious hatred. I repeat, to prohibit by law. Such a legal framework would prevent, deter, and ultimately combat religious discrimination,” Retno said.

The top diplomat also called for the use of technology to mainstream the commitment to Resolution 16/18, instead of fueling hate crimes. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) 16/18 resolution addresses combating religious violence.

UNHRC Vice President Muhammadou echoed a similar sentiment on striking a balance between freedom of speech and respect for other people’s faiths. 

"Freedom of expression comes with responsibility, and a call to ensure that whatever expression that you are free to give does not violate individual or collective rights in a community, a country, and the global realm,” Muhammadou told reporters on the sidelines of the forum.

Sweden and Denmark have witnessed a number of Quran-burning incidents in recent months, sparking an uproar from the Muslim nations. International news outlets attributed the massive Quran torching to freedom of speech protections and the lack of blasphemy laws.

Denmark scrapped its blasphemy laws in 2017. The Danish government, however, recently announced a bill that could make the Quran burning an act punishable by fines or a jail sentence of up to two years, according to Al Jazeera.

Reuters earlier this month reported that Sweden had no plans to change its freedom of speech laws. Sweden claims it will look into changes to allow police to stop people from setting the Islamic holy book on fire in public if they pose a threat to national security.

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