Tuesday, October 12, 2021

RLPB 619. Indonesia: Convert Apologist Accused of Blasphemy, Assaulted in Prison

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 619 | Wed 13 Oct 2021
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by Elizabeth Kendal

Muhammad Kece, 21 August 2021

On 25 August Indonesian police arrested Muhammad 'Kece' Kosman, a convert to Christianity and former Islamic cleric from Pangandaran Regency, West Java. Whilst a Muslim, Kece taught at an Islamic boarding school and went on the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia three times. He began publicly critiquing Islam after being baptised as a Christian in 2014. In July 2020 he established a YouTube channel - 'MuhammadKece' - where he offers an intellectual critique of Islam and defence of Christianity; in all he has uploaded more than 400 videos. His last video, streamed live on 23 August, has been viewed more than 70,000 times. On 21 August Kece uploaded a critique (viewed almost 37,000 times) in which he declared: 'Muhammad is unknown by God and is only known by his followers because he is surrounded by jinn/devils.' He also changed the words of a common greeting used by Muslims, replacing Allah's name with Jesus' name. Assalamualaikum, warrahmatuyesus wabarakatu (translation: Peace be upon you and Lord Jesus' mercy and blessings) and Alhamduyesus hirabbilalamin (translation: All praise is raised to the presence of the Lord Jesus, the Father in heaven who is worthy of praise and worship).

Finally, Indonesia's powerful Islamic organisations had had enough; the fight back would begin. On 21 August Abdul Muiz Ali, the administrator of the Central Board of Nahdlatul Ulama (PBNU) Da'wah Institute and Deputy Secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Fatwa Commission, fired the first shot, openly asserting that Kece was engaged in 'a form of blasphemy'. He then issued what could be regarded as a veiled threat: '[Kece's] words violate the law,' he said. 'If the authorities don't arrest him immediately, [the clerics] are worried that Muslims will show their anger.'

On 25 August, Kece was arrested in Bali, transported to Java and incarcerated in isolation in the Criminal Investigation Agency (Badan Reserse Kriminal or Bareskrim) detention facility in South Jakarta. That night, four prisoners broke into Kece's cell and attacked him. The gang was led by Inspector-General Napoleon Bonaparte, a high-level officer who, on 10 March, was fined and sentenced to four-and-a-half years jail for accepting a bribe from fugitive Djoko Tjandra (wanted for embezzlement) to cancel the Interpol Red Notice against him. Napoleon was in the Bareskrim detention facility awaiting the outcome of his Supreme Court challenge. The attack on Kece started at 30 minutes past midnight and continued for an hour. The gang was able to enter Kece's cell because Napoleon had organised with the prison warden (a non-commissioned officer) that the padlock on Kece's cell be replaced with a padlock provided by Napoleon. After smearing Kece's face and body with human faeces, the physically powerful Napoleon and his three accomplices - one of whom is reportedly a former member of now-banned hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) - mercilessly beat the helpless Kece.

(left) Inspector-General Napoleon Bonaparte (10 March 2021)
(right) Christian apologist Muhammad Kece, (26 August 2021)

Kece filed a complaint, triggering an investigation. Numerous witness - including officers and inmates - have been questioned. Napoleon was questioned for some 10 hours on Monday 20 September. Prior to questioning, Napoleon published an open letter explaining his actions. 'Anyone can insult me,' he said, 'but not my Allah, the Koran, the Holy Prophet, and the creed of Islam. Hence, I pledge to take any action in a measured manner against those who dare to do so ... I am truly disappointed that the government has [not] yet taken down all of those uncivilised people's contents from the media. And last but not least, I will take responsibility for all my actions towards Kece regardless of the risks.' He also insisted that Kece's alleged blasphemies threaten Indonesia's unity, integrity and religious harmony. Clearly the corrupt and violent Napoleon intends to establish himself as a principled defender of Islam and patriotic champion of Indonesia; a man driven by righteous indignation, simply responding to the hurtful blasphemies of a dangerous apostate.

Christians, journalists, and Western diplomats must watch these cases closely: (1) the blasphemy case against Muhammad Kece, and (2) the persecution case against Inspector-General Napoleon Bonaparte. These related cases could trigger an explosion of Islamic zeal which some might seek to exploit for political gain. This would not bode well for the Church in Indonesia.


Muhammad Kece,
bruised but smiling.

* protect and sustain Muhammad Kece: may Jehovah Rapha, the Lord our healer, bring health and healing to Kece's battered body and comfort to his soul; may Yahwey Sabaoth, the Lord/commander of heaven's hosts/angels, protect him from further attacks. 'Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.' (Psalm 17:8 ESV)

* grace our brother Muhammad Kece with that 'peace of God which surpasses all understanding', to guard his heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7 ESV); may the Holy Spirit be pleased to speak through him as he is 'dragged before governors and kings for [Christ's] sake' (from Matthew 10).

* intervene in the judicial process: may impunity be denied, may justice be achieved, and may righteousness be advanced for the sake the Church and the Gospel in Indonesia; AND may free speech be respected, may violence be rejected, and may hearts and minds be opened - not only in the courts, but also on the streets. 'For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost' (Jesus, from Luke 19:1-10 ESV).


Muhammad 'Kece' Kosman is a convert to Christianity (baptised 2014) and former Islamic cleric. In July 2020 Kece created a YouTube channel through which he offers an intellectual critique of Islam. On 21 August one of Indonesia's most senior clerics accused Kece of blasphemy and insisted he be arrested lest Muslims 'show their anger'. Kece was arrested on 25 August and detained in South Jakarta. That night, four prisoners, led by Inspector-General Napoleon (imprisoned for corruption) and aided by the prison warden, broke into Kece's cell and beat him mercilessly. Kece filed a complaint, triggering an investigation. Napoleon has demonstrated his intent to establish himself as a principled defender of Islam and patriotic champion of Indonesia. These related cases, against Kece and Napoleon, could trigger an explosion of Islamic zeal. Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Research at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom Inc (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com