Hard-liner group Islam Defenders Front (FPI) reported publishing company PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama (GPU) to the Jakarta Police on Monday for circulating a book it claimed “defamed Islam”.
FPI spokesman Munarman said that the book in question was the Indonesian translation of US theologian Douglas Wilson’s Five Cities that Ruled the World: How Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York Shaped Global History.
The Indonesian translation, entitled 5 Kota Paling Berpengaruh di Dunia, was published by GPU, a subsidiary of Jakarta-based media conglomerate Kompas Gramedia Group, earlier this year.
“Passages on page 24 of the book put forward ideas of Prophet Muhammad PBUH as a thief and a pirate who raided caravans and ordered murders to take control of Medina,” Munarman told reporters.
“This is clearly a defamation of Islamic teachings, as Prophet Muhammad PBUH symbolizes those teachings,” he said.
The FPI accused GPU of violating Articles 156a, 157, and 484 of the Criminal Code on religious defamation, hate speech, and printing texts liable to criminal charges.
The Code stipulates five years in prison for religious defamation, two-and-a-half years for hate speech, and one year for printing texts liable to criminal charges.
Data from the police show that the FPI included the names of GPU chairman Wandi S. Brata, along with translator Hendri Tanaja and editor T. Herdian in their report.
“We hope that our report will be followed up according to the law,” Munarman said.
The case first entered the national spotlight when one of the book’s readers, identifying himself as Depok resident Syahruddin, wrote a letter about the alleged defamation that was published in Republika on June 8.
Wandi replied to the letter the next day, also in Republika, saying, “[GPU] deeply apologizes for our negligence in publishing a translation of the book as it is.”
Wandi continued by saying that the company had pulled all the books from circulation and would soon destroy them all.
However, FPI Jakarta secretary Habib Novel said that he could still find the book at a Gunung Agung outlet at Arion Mall in Rawamangun, East Jakarta, on June 10. “I have submitted both the book and the purchase receipt to the police as proof that the book was still in circulation.”
According to Munarman, cases like these cannot be solved by withdrawing the books from the shelves. “Religious defamation is a crime. Look at a corruption case — do you think the case is solved once the perpetrator says that he’s sorry?”
Kompas Gramedia Group corporate communications director Widi Krastawan said that the company would review GPU’s production process thoroughly in the wake of the incident.
“We will see what is wrong with the system and how such negligence can occur,” Widi told The Jakarta Post over the phone.
He acknowledged that literal translations were problematic in translating a book from a foreign language to Indonesia.
“A sense of language, social context and acuity on sensitive issues must also be considered in translating a book. I believe that there are much better choices of words that should have been used in this case,” he said.
He reaffirmed Wandi’s statement that the company had done all it could to ensure that the book was withdrawn from circulation. “We even went to numerous book stores, even other chains, to ensure that the book is not on the shelves anymore.”
The report was made close on the heels of the FPI’s strong objection to the plan to host US pop diva Lady Gaga’s concert, slated for June 3. The Jakarta gig would have been the singer’s first concert in Indonesia and, at 52,000 seats, the largest leg on her Asian tour. Backed by the police, the FPI condemned Gaga’s music for “promoting Satanic teachings”.
The concert’s cancellation came after the FPI attacked a book tour by Canadian Muslim writer Irshad Manji. The discussions of her ook Allah, Liberty and Love in Jakarta and Yogyakarta were forcibly shut down by the FPI with the help of the police.