Forming 'Forbidden' Identities Online: Atheism in Indonesia
Keywords:Atheism, Indonesia, Islam, Non-Religious Minorities, Social Media
This article discusses the online activism of Indonesian atheists. While most of the little existent scholarship on atheism in Indonesia views the controversial cases in the light of the violation of Western-style rights to free speech and religious liberty, a closer look at the public discourses both online and offline reveals a more complex picture. The article embeds atheist activism and the well-known case of Alexander An in the changing landscape of religion and state in post-Suharto Indonesia. It points at the intricate relationship between atheism and blasphemy and shows how activists not only carve a space for themselves online, but also seek to counter the negative and anti-religious image that decades-long campaigning has created for atheists. Activists use Facebook, Twitter, messaging systems, and forums such as Quora, both to become visible and yet allow for anonymity. Their online communication and activism is often coupled with offline meetings. In this way, atheists allow for a thriving ‘community’, and also present atheism positively in public. However, to defend atheism this way also has its downsides, as it aligns Indonesian atheists with an international network of mainly Western-funded human rights activists and thus runs the risk of further alienating them from a nation that strongly defines itself along religious identity.
Copyright (c) 2016 SEAS – the Society of South-East Asian Studies
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.
For all articles published in ASEAS before December 2014 and after July 2022, copyright is retained by the authors. For articles published between January 2015 and June 2022, the Society for South-East Asian Studies (SEAS) is the copyright holder. Articles published in ASEAS before December 2019 are licensed under the following Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported. Articles published after that date are licensed under the following Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International. In both cases, this means that everybody is free to share (to copy, to distribute, and to transmit the work) under the following conditions:
Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
NoDerivatives — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.