TikToker jailed in Indonesia for using Islamic phrase before eating pork

By Alma Fabiani

Published Sep 21, 2023 at 11:43 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

An Indonesian court has sentenced an influencer to two years in jail for posting a viral TikTok video where she said an Islamic phrase before eating pork.

Lina Lutfiawati, 33, was found guilty of “inciting hatred” against religious individuals and groups. She also currently faces a 250 million rupiah (£13,155) fine. If Lutfiawati doesn’t pay it, her jail term may be extended by three months.

This incident is the latest in a series of cases involving controversial blasphemy laws in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. Lutfiawati (who adopted the Indian name Lina Mukherjee due to her love of Bollywood movies, according to the BBC) identifies as Muslim. The lifestyle influencer, who has more than two million TikTok followers, also runs a business in India.

The consumption of pork is strictly forbidden in Islam, with the meat considered ‘haram’. In her video, Lutfiawati uttered “Bismillah,” an Arabic phrase that means “in the name of God,” just before eating some crispy pork skin. The clip, which has since been deleted, quickly amassed millions of views and was widely criticised.

At the time of filming, Lutfiawati was travelling in Bali, a touristic place in Indonesia that, unlike the rest of the country, has a majority Hindu population. Lutfiawati said she tried pork out of curiosity.

Reports have revealed that it was another Indonesian who reported her to the police for “knowingly eating pork skin as a Muslim.” Police charged Lutfiawati in May 2023 for disseminating hateful information, saying it was an act of hostility over ethnicity, religion, and race.

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Indonesia influencer Lina Mukherjee jailed for using Islamic phrase before eating pork on TikTok #dailymirror #breakingnews #news #linamukherjee #tiktok #islamic #indonesia

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Many conservative groups across the country also issued rulings calling the video blasphemous. They included the Ulema Council, Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body.

Lutfiawati issued a public apology for the video and expressed surprise at the recent verdict. “I know that I am wrong, but I did not expect this punishment,” she said on the local news station MetroTV, as reported by Al Jazeera.

On social media, the reaction from Indonesian individuals to Lutfiawati’s jailing has so far been divided, with many praising the judge and calling her actions blasphemous. Others have criticised her jail sentence, noting that the jail terms given out for corruption cases are often much lower.

Rights groups and activists in Indonesia have long criticised the blasphemy laws, which they say are frequently misused to target religious minorities.

The case is the latest in a number of blasphemy cases around the country, mostly against those deemed to have insulted Islam, which many analysts have said undermine Indonesia’s reputation for moderation.

In August, the head of an Islamic boarding school that allowed men and women to pray alongside each other and women to become preachers was charged with blasphemy and hate speech.

In 2022, six people were arrested on blasphemy charges after a bar chain promoted free beer for anyone named Mohammed—Muhammad was an Arab religious, social, and political leader and the founder of Islam.

In 2019, Indonesia’s Supreme Court upheld an 18-month jail sentence for an ethnic Chinese Buddhist woman convicted of blasphemy over claims she said a nearby mosque’s loudspeakers were too loud.

Jakarta’s former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok and who is a Christian, was sentenced to two years in prison in 2017 for blasphemy, on charges widely seen as politically motivated.

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