Not By the Book

The jailing of an American man in Lombok on a charge of blasphemy, following an incident at a mosque in the south coast community of Kuta in circumstances that are still far from clear but which the man concerned apparently accepts as justice, is instructive from another aspect of the case.

The altercation that brought Gregory Luke to court occurred on August 22, during Ramadhan. The man, a long-term resident, a practising Muslim and by repute a significant benefactor in the small community – including to the mosque near his house, where he worshipped – made a mistake. He complained about the decibels emanating from the mosque’s loudspeakers. He was arrested and subsequently charged and held on remand until his trial. This week he was sentenced to five months’ jail and will be free in February.

That much is water under the bridge. What is astounding – although seemingly it is not unusual, as another protesting foreigner elsewhere in Lombok can attest since when he complained to his local village that someone had vandalised statuary at his villa a mob came round and wrecked the house – is that the police have arrested no one for the criminal damage caused by the Kuta mob that sacked Luke’s villa after the mosque confrontation.

It is foolish of anyone to allow their anger – however justified by the unthinking actions of others – to boil over. But it is monstrous that vandals are apparently allowed to escape scot-free from provisions of Indonesia’s law that proscribe civil affray. No credit accrues to the police, the local authorities in Lombok, the judiciary or the courts from this sad sequence of events.

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