Five schoolgirls in Indonesia have been charged with blasphemy ("defamation of religion") and face possible time in juvenile detention for "tainting religion", over self-made footage of the girls dancing and praying, filmed on a mobile phone.
Their headteacher, named as Muallimin in local reports, has expelled the girls and forbidden them from taking exams which in effect will prevent them from graduating high school.
The headteacher earnestly explains the necessity of his actions: "The students were performing Sholat [prayer] movement with dancing while alternately reciting the Koran and turning on 'One More Night'", the track by Maroon 5. In a rambling explanation of the incident presented online by the principal it is stated: "the institutional decision to pull out of school 5 students for such blasphemy is logical and rational, due procedure." You can watch the video on Youtube and decide for yourself if reporting the children for blasphemy and a possible detention sentence with a criminal record is rational.
Sonja Eggerickx, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and with a background in education herself, said: "It is incomprehensible that anyone could think expulsion and police intervention against a few ordinary schoolgirls having fun was necessary, let alone logical. Anyone who thinks a teenager dancing and performing a mock prayer is a threat to their religion needs to grow up themselves.
"Children have fun. They might mock the things grown-ups do sometimes. That's what children do. The headteacher should be fired for such a disproportionate response and the girls should be exonerated and allowed to sit their exams."
The IHEU campaigns for the abolition of all laws against 'blasphemy' and 'defamation of religion'.
"Once more we see the concept of defamation of religion being used to seriously harm individuals in contravention of basic rights and freedoms," said Eggerickx. "Sometimes victims of blasphemy laws are political agitators, as in the case of the Bangladesh bloggers or Pussy Riot or Fazil Say. Sometimes they simply state their atheism, like Alber Saber or Alexander Aan. Others are the persecuted, blameless members of a minority, like Rimsha Masih. This is yet another kind of case: teenagers having fun, maybe being a bit cheeky, as children are, and certainly not reprsenting any threat to social order warranting police intervention and the wanton destruction of their education.
"Again IHEU reiterates its call to every government, to abolish all laws which make 'blasphemy' or 'insult to religion' a crime. Such laws are never in the interests of justice. Blasphemy laws always go beyond what legitimate laws against incitement to hatred or violence might delimit, chilling freedom of expression and flinging open the door to absurd prosecutions such as this."