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Atheists Faking Muslim Identity for Safety in Indonesia


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Friendly Atheist, many atheists in Indonesia fear for their lives and so live under fake Muslim identities.

Indonesia has the largest population of Muslims in the world. The number of Muslims in standard statistics may be misleading because of the fear of reprisal from the community, the family, and even the state. If someone is in fear for their livelihood, then they may simply work to fit into the pack.

As reported, “Living a double life isn’t all that uncommon in Indonesia, where atheists live in fear of being sent to jail (or worse) thanks to fundamentalist religious groups. AFP profiled one of these atheists, identified only as “Luna Atmowijoyo,” about her de-conversion from Islam years ago.”

Atmowijoyo lives with her parents. But still, she wears an Islamic headscarf to simply fit into the family and so the community, and to avoid the backlash, potentially and likely, of her father. She was told to not have friendships with non-Muslims.

She is 30-years-old and still finds a lot of the simple things bother her. Atmowijoyo stated, “Like I couldn’t say Merry Christmas or Happy Waisak to people of other religions,” where other problems involved the treatment of homosexual males and females as in some way dysfunctional/abnormal.

The juxtaposition of the Quran and science were also problems. Then the idea entered her brain, that God may not exist. The reportage notes the Abrahamic faiths’ marginalization of the sexual orientation and gender identity minority communities.

It continued, “But for most of us, going public with that idea will lead to a loss of family or friends. It’s not a death sentence. In Indonesia, atheists who speak out about their beliefs risk their lives and freedom.”

The law of the land in Indonesia does not help, either. It has some purported stipulations about the freedom of expression. However, the freedom expression of speaking about a lack of a belief in God or gods becomes something that places an individual at risk of arrest of killing by the authorities.

The six religions recognized by Indonesia are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and others. However, with over 90% of the population believing in Islam, the criticism of religion and a religious Theity, including the Islamic one especially, becomes potentially grounds for public and legal punishment.

It may even be a greater risk for a woman. In 2018, one student was charged for a Facebook post that made a comparison between Allah and some Greek gods, while also stating the Lord of the Rings is comparable in reality to the Quran.

Alexander Aan received 30 months in jail in 2012 for the posting of explicit material of the Prophet Mohammed while also declaring himself – Aan – an atheist. The government will not acknowledge any hypocrisy between allowing someone to be an atheist but only keeping it to themselves, under potential punishment with the force of law.

Abdurrahman Mas’ud, head of the research and development agency at the Ministry of Religion, explained, “Once somebody disseminates that idea, or the concept of atheism, that will be problematic.”

The article concluded:

Blasphemy laws are always going to be blasphemy laws. Nobody is falling for this “atheism is legal” nonsense, and there’s a good reason some atheists are hiding their lack of faith from everyone in Indonesia. Without reforming the culture and the laws — with the help of believers who truly believe in free speech — nothing will get better in this area.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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