By Konradus Epa
Islamic organizations in Indonesia have demanded authorities charge and seek the extradition of an exiled Christian YouTuber for blasphemy over posts uploaded on his YouTube channel.
They say Jozeph Paul Zhang, 40, offended Muslims by insulting the Prophet Muhammad and criticizing the holy month of Ramadan in a video uploaded on April 15.
In the video, Zhang, who reportedly fled to Hong Kong in 2018 because he feared arrest for his anti-Islamic views, took aim at Muslims for fasting during Ramadan and claimed he was the 26th prophet.
Muslims revere Muhammad as the 25th and last prophet.
“When you Muslims fast, so people from other religions are affected. Their fasting makes life difficult for us,” the YouTuber said, referring to people of other religions finding it difficult to eat during the day due to many restaurants being closed because of the fast.
Zhang, who claims to be a Protestant pastor, even taunted conservative Muslims by saying he would give 1 million rupiah (US$70) to anyone wanting to report him to police.
Several Islamic organizations responded on April 18 by urging national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo to seek his arrest and extradition for blasphemy.
Among the groups was the country’s top Muslim clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), and Nahdlatul Ulama (PBNU), the largest moderate Islamic organization.
“Zhang is attempting to divide the Indonesian people and national unity,” PBNU general secretary Helmi Faizal Zaini said on April 18.
Police must act decisively and go after him despite him living in another country, he added.
“I hope the Indonesian people will not be provoked by this case. We have to maintain unity and peace,” he said.
Muhammadiyah, the second biggest moderate Islamic organization in Indonesia, also condemned the video and questioned Zhang’s mental state.
Meanwhile, the Communion of Churches in Indonesia questioned Zhang’s claim that he was a Protestant pastor
“I don’t know if he is. It is unclear which church he is from, chairman Gomar Gultom said.
He called on people to ignore the video and not encourage Zhang to make further statements.
Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, a member of a presidential unit promoting communal tolerance, told UCA News that Zhang has insulted Indonesia as a whole by rejecting the national ideology which encourages people to respect other religions.
The priest said Zhang must face legal consequences because the state protects and respects all religions in Indonesia.
“All actions involving harassment, incitement and insults to a religion must be prosecuted,” he said.
Under Indonesian law, a person can be jailed for up to five years if convicted of blasphemy.