News & Politics

Google Hosts Sharia Law App Enabling Muslims to Report Blasphemy and Heresy to the Police

Google logo. (Photo: Sipa France via AP Images)

On December 7, 2018, the Google Play Store approved the latest version of “Smart Pakem,” an app that allows Muslims in Jakarta, the capital of the largest Muslim country on earth, to report violations of Sharia law such as blasphemy and even heresy. The app allows users to report people who practice unrecognized religions or unorthodox interpretations of Indonesia’s six officially recognized faiths: Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Protestant Christianity, and Roman Catholic Christianity.

According to Google’s translation on the Google Play Store, “Smart Pakem” intends “to make it easier to find information and manage religion, belief flow and community organizations in the jurisdiction of DKI Jakarta,” the capital of Indonesia.

The app, which has more than 1,000 installs, claims to provide a list of “laws and regulations that regulate the activities of the flow of beliefs in the community.”

While most areas of Indonesia do not enforce the entirety of Sharia (Islamic law), the national criminal code prohibits blasphemy, which it defines as “the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things.” Article 156(a) makes it illegal to “express feelings of hostility, hatred, or contempt against religion,” with a penalty of up to five years in prison.

As Laura Loomer reported at BigLeaguePolitics, Google’s vice president in Southeast Asia, Rajan Anandan, has not shown any resistance to the app.

The National Secular Society (NSS) has protested the law in letters to Anadan. The organization’s chief executive, Stephen Evans, wrote that Google’s decision to stock the app was “incongruous with Google’s mission statement” and “runs directly contrary to the democratic ideals which Google says it stands for.”

Human Rights Watch reported that 125 people were convicted of blasphemy in Indonesia between 2004 and 2014, with 23 more convicted since 2014. Last year, Jakarta’s popular Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — better known as Ahok — was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy.

While the latest version of “Smart Pakem” came out on December 7, the original version came out on November 25. The app was created by the Jakarta prosecutor’s office, which told Agence France Presse (AFP) it would help educate the public and modernize the reporting process.

“The objective…is to provide easier access to information about the spread of beliefs in Indonesia, to educate the public and to prevent them from following doctrines from an individual or a group that are not in line with the regulations,” Nirwan Nawawi, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, told AFP in a statement.

The app lists religious edicts and blacklisted organizations and will allow users to file immediate complaints, instead of submitting a written accusation to a government office.

Reviews for the app are very negative (it has a 1.2 out of 5 star rating). “This application would lead to national disintegration in Indonesia,” a user named Emanuel Anggit wrote in the most popular review. He argued that the app enables “anyone, including fanatic religious people to report any traditional beliefs as harmful.” He warned of persecution, and wrote that Indonesia is facing an “intolerance” that the app will only make worse.

“I live in Indonesia, and I know how the minorities will be treated after this application is widely used,” he concluded.

Since Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, it is very diverse. Some areas have a culture where Muslims and Christians live together in harmony, while other islands are rife with radical Islamic terrorism. This app suggests an increase in religious persecution in the country’s capital, and Google should seriously rethink its support for this app.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.