Yes, you read the headline correctly. A man in Indonesia declared himself an atheist on Facebook, received 1,700 “thumbs-up”, and now faces a 5-year prison sentence, all after being attacked and beaten by an angry, and apparently God-fearing, mob of protestors.
While the posting has now been removed, many Islamic organizations believed that the man had defiled Islam by using passages from the Koran to denounce the existence of God and highlight his atheist views.
It seems that not a day passes by without an outlandish Facebook-related story, though this story, while extreme, does bring up some interesting viewpoints.
On a personal computer, should you have to respect the laws of your country? In Indonesia, atheism is a violation of the law under the founding principles of the country. The man was charged because he used Facebook to spread beliefs that violated the law. The law, whether you agree or not, states that anyone who tries to stop others from believing in a faith could face up to five years in jail for blasphemy. Makes sense, right?
At the same time, Facebook and other social networking sites are great resources for those feeling oppressed, to speak up. In many countries, social media gives those less-heard an outlet to communicate to the world what’s really going on inside their borders. One example is recent countrywide rioting in Afghanistan, centered around the inadvertent burning of Korans at Bagram Air Base. Many media-saavy Afghans turned to social networking sites to express their dismay at the destruction wrought by the riots, alerting national media to a story they wouldn’t have known existed 10 years ago.
Whether you’re stating your religious beliefs, or shedding light on a civil war, social media has proved itself a force to be reckoned with. Just be careful what country you’re in, before clicking “send.”