In Indonesia, a Muslim woman, Lina Lutfiawati, who goes by Lina Mukherjee on social media, has been sentenced to a two-year prison term under the country’s blasphemy law. This was a result of her sharing a video on TikTok where she recited an Islamic prayer and tried pork while visiting Bali, a popular tourist island.
Lina, 33 years old, faced trial in the Palembang district court on Sumatra Island, where she was found guilty of “disseminating information intended to incite hatred against religious individuals and specific groups,” as stated in court documents. Alongside the prison sentence, she was fined $16,245 (equivalent to 250,000,000 Indonesian rupiah), a substantial sum in a nation with an annual per capita income of around $4,300. The court also mentioned that her imprisonment could be extended by three months if she fails to pay the fine.
Following the trial, Lina Mukherjee expressed her astonishment at the severity of the punishment, stating, “I know I was wrong, but I really did not expect this punishment.” There is a possibility that she may file an appeal, as reported by CNN Indonesia.
Blasphemy cases are increasing in Indonesia, which is the world’s most populous Muslim country, with over 231 million people, where at least 93% of adults identify as Muslim. In recent years, religious conservatism has been on the rise, and rights organizations have cautioned against the growing use of blasphemy laws to target religious minorities and those perceived as having insulted Islam.
In Islam, pork is prohibited, and the majority of Indonesian Muslims consider its consumption to be taboo. However, pork is commonly consumed by non-Muslims, including the ethnic Chinese population in the country and residents of Bali, which has a Hindu majority.
Lina Mukherjee, who identifies as Muslim, has a substantial social media following of over 2 million. She is known for her lifestyle and food videos, one of which drew controversy when she shared it on TikTok in March. In the video, she can be seen reciting the Islamic phrase “Bismillah” (In the name of Allah) before eating crispy pork skin at a dining table. Bismillah is a significant and commonly used sacred phrase in Islam, often uttered by Muslims before eating. The video, filmed during her trip to Bali, showed her trying “babi guling,” a popular street food featuring rice, spit-roasted pork, crackling, and vegetables.
The video received millions of views but faced condemnation from religious groups, including the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s top Muslim clerical body, which labeled it as “blasphemous.” A public complaint led to police investigations, ultimately resulting in Lina Mukherjee’s prosecution.
Throughout her trial, photos and videos of Lina Mukherjee often showed her in tears and accompanied by heavy security. Human Rights Watch’s Indonesia researcher, Andreas Harsono, commented on the situation, saying, “She’s done nothing wrong, but it says a lot about Indonesia… how a self-proclaimed moderate Muslim country is becoming a radicalized Muslim nation.” Harsono also pointed out that the expansion of blasphemy laws in Indonesia is a setback for religious freedom and contrasts with the global trend of either not enforcing or scrapping blasphemy laws.
One of Indonesia’s most notable blasphemy cases involved Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian politician and Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor in 50 years. He faced blasphemy charges in 2017 after referencing a Quranic verse during his re-election campaign in 2016, leading to a two-year prison sentence despite making a public apology.