Indonesian Islamic cleric arrested for allowing women to preach & pray beside men

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Cleric arrested for blasphemy
Arrested cleric Panji Gumilang (Photo: News Intervention)

Another islamic country is now making the headlines. This time it’s Indonesia. A muslim cleric has now been arrested for allowing women to preach and pray beside men. He has been charged with blasphemy and hate speech.

At the age of 77, Panji Gumilang was arrested on tuesday. The Indonesian National Police official Djuhandhani Rahardjo of the Criminal Investigation Agency confirmed that Panji will be detained in the their detention facility for 20 days. However, the police did not specify what the cleric has said or done that has constituted blasphemy. They only notified that the action was taken on public complaints.

Panji runs the Al-Zaytun boarding school in Indramayu district of West Java, which is home to roughly 5000 students. In the past as well, the school has faced backlash for its practices that were deemed as ‘ too liberal’ by the conservative mass. Practices such as allowing men and women to pray alongside each other, and allowing women to become imams. The practice of not abiding by the gender segregation practice like other islamic boarding schools have angered the public.

His supporters are angry and confused over the arrest, one has asked, “So he went against (the curve) – does he deserve to be punished for his compassion.” 

This move was not sudden, in June, the Islamic Clerical Council said they were investigating Al-Zaytun for,” misguided religious practices”. If found guilty of blasphemy and hate speech, Panji faces a maximum 10 years in prison.

Even though Indonesia has an overwhelming majority, it is constitutionally secular and officially recognises-  Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Earlier Indonesia practiced tolerance, but in recent years, there has been a rise in religious conservatism.

Practices such as alcohol and gambling ban, public flogging for various offenses including homosexuality and adultery, sex outside marriage ban etc is the reflection of the rise of rights groups in the country.

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